Michelin co-develops sustainable tires based on recycled PET
The tire maker says it has successfully validated the use of Carbios’ enzymatic recycling technology for PET plastic waste in its tires.
Tire manufacturer Michelin and recycling technology supplier Carbios, both headquartered in France, have partnered in what’s being called a major step towards developing 100 per cent sustainable tires.
According to Michelin, it has successfully tested and applied Carbios’ enzymatic recycling process for PET plastic waste, in order to create a high tenacity tire fibre that meets the tire-giant’s technical requirements.
Carbios’ enzymatic recycling process uses an enzyme capable of depolymerizing the PET contained in various plastics or textiles (bottles, trays, polyester clothing, etc.). This innovation allows infinite recycling of all types of PET waste, and also allows the production of 100 per cent recycled and 100 per cent recyclable PET products, with the same quality as if they were produced with virgin PET.
The monomers resulting from Carbios’ process, which used coloured and opaque plastic waste such as bottles, once repolymerized in PET, made it possible to obtain a high tenacity fiber to meet Michelin’s tire requirements.
The technical fibre obtained is of the same quality as the one from virgin PET, processed with the same prototype installations. This high tenacity polyester is particularly suitable for tires, due to its breakage resistance, toughness, and thermal stability.
“We are very proud to be the first to have produced and tested recycled technical fibres for tires. These reinforcements were made from coloured bottles and recycled using the enzymatic technology of our partner, Carbios,” said Nicolas Seeboth, director of polymer research at Michelin. “These high-tech reinforcements have demonstrated their ability to provide performance identical to those from the oil industry.”
Carbios’ enzymatic recycling process therefore enables Michelin to get one step closer to its sustainable ambitions, and contributes to the entry of tires into a true circular economy. Michelin is committed to achieving 40 per cent sustainable materials (of renewable or recycled origin) by 2030 and 100 per cent by 2050.
“In 2019, Carbios announced it had produced the first PET bottles with 100 per cent Purified Terephthalic Acid (rPTA), made from the enzymatic recycling of post-consumer PET waste,” said Alain Marty, Carbios’ chief scientific officer. “Today, with Michelin, we are demonstrating the full extent of our process by obtaining from this same plastic waste, recycled PET that is suitable for highly technical fibres, such as those used in Michelin’s tires.”