Bridgestone sees 100% sustainable tyres by 2050

17 April 2013 18:41  [Source: ICIS news]

SAN FRANCISCO (ICIS)--Japanese tyre maker Bridgestone is on the path to make all of its tyres 100% sustainable by 2050, a company official said on Wednesday.

Speaking at the International Institute for Synthetic Rubber Producers Annual General Meeting, Hiroshi Mouri, president of Bridgestone Americas Center for Research and Technology in Akron, Ohio, told the group that Bridgestone is investing $1.2bn (€0.9bn) in new manufacturing and research and development facilities in the US. Part of the mission of these new facilities will be to research sustainable materials.

One area of focus is increasing the sustainability of natural rubber, which Mouri said is “renewable but it is not sustainable”. Natural rubber has a history of extinction, most notably the leaf blight disease that wiped out all of the natural rubber trees in Brazil.

Mouri said that he sees a 50% increase in demand for natural rubber over the next 10 years and that for natural rubber to be sustainable the crop must be diversified beyond Southeast Asia, which today accounts for more than 90% of the worldwide supply.  

To diversify the natural rubber supply, Bridgestone is looking at guayule, a plant that can grow in arid climates in Mexico, Arizona and Spain. In 2012, Bridgestone bought a 281-acre farm in Eloy, Arizona, where it is growing guayule. In 2014, Bridgestone will open a new process research center in Mesa, Arizona.

Mouri said that the 100% sustainable tyre that Bridgestone showed at the Paris Motor Show was made partially from natural rubber from guayule.

Bridgestone is also researching how to make natural rubber from the Russian dandelion, which can grow in temperate climates such as the US Midwest and western Europe. Bridgestone is growing Russian dandelion at its Wooster, Ohio research facility as part of PENRA, the Program of Excellence in Natural Rubber Alternatives, a group that includes Ford and Cooper Tires, as well as researchers from Oregon State and Ohio State universities.

Bridgestone also recently decoded the DNA sequence of rubber trees and is using it to create disease-resistant rubber.

While Bridgestone mostly uses natural rubber in its sustainable  tyres, Mouri said Bridgestone recently partnered with Ajinomoto, a Japanese company that is working on a process that uses bacteria that turns a biomass into isoprene, which can be used to make synthetic rubber.

Rubber from biomass is “still far away,” Mouri said. In the near term, he said the synthetic rubber industry will rely heavily on both on-purpose butadiene and on-purpose isoprene.

Bridgestone is also looking at creating sustainable tyre cord from cellulosic fibre.

By: Mark Yost
+1 713 525 2653

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