Michelin's sustainability increases with tire recycling subsidiary Lehigh Technologies
- Michelin announced new goals aimed at increasing its sustainable material feedstock to 80% — up from its current 28%, with 26% being bio-sourced and 2% from recycled materials — at Movin’On 2018, Michelin’s annual global sustainable mobility summit.
- By 2048, Michelin hopes to use 100% recycled materials in its products. Worldwide, the tire recovery rate stands at 70%, with 50% being recycled.
- Michelin subsidiary Lehigh Technologies is set to open a new factory in Murillo del Fruto, Spain in July 2018 to support sales of micronized rubber powders (MRP) in six European countries. The facility will have an annual production capacity of 10,000 tons of MRP, which is used to manufacture tires, polyurethane foam, asphalt and cement.
In October 2017, Michelin acquired specialty chemicals company Lehigh Technologies to help achieve its sustainability goals. Lehigh manufactures MRP from used tires at its plant in Tucker, Georgia. The facility has an annual production capacity of 60,000 tons of MRP.
Though Lehigh’s upstream feedstock hasn't been affected since it sources used tires domestically in the U.S. and Europe, China’s import ban means the company is missing out on downstream opportunities there. Lehigh CEO Alan Barton told Waste Dive, "We have a couple of existing customers that would like to use our product in China, but they can’t because you cannot import MRP into China today."
MRP offers manufacturers savings of 30-50% over virgin rubber feedstock with similar or improved performance, depending on the application. For example, asphalt manufactured with MRP has better high- and low-temperature cracking resistance. Tires typically have the same characteristics as those manufactured with non-recycled, non-sustainable materials. Lehigh prefers to use truck tires as feedstock because they contain more usable raw material than smaller car tires, meaning there is less extraneous material such as fiber and metal to remove during the production process.
“Everybody knows about low-value uses for waste. What we’re demonstrating is that with the application of technical know how … you can turn what would be a low-value waste into a high-value raw material,” Barton said. "It’s recycling 2.0."
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