London: Ahead of the recent Tire Tech Expo, ETRMA secretary general Fazilet Cinaralp discussed current developments in the tire & rubber industry:
ERJ: What have been the main focus areas for the European Tyre & Rubber Manufacturers’ Association amid all the recent challenges faced by the industry?
Cinaralp: The most important role of ETRMA in the last couple of years has been to provide the necessary regulatory visibility for Industry to incentivise their research and innovation teams to deliver on ambitious sustainability targets. This, for example, includes the successful completion of the revision to the tire label regulation, which entered into application in May last year.
We have also witnessed a significant change of direction in the EU, with the European Commission calling full-force for a twin transition through green growth and digital transformation to drive Europe’s recovery – the Green Deal.
Safety, sustainability, digitalisation, circular economy have become all the more societal priorities with the Covid19 pandemic. In addition, actions towards sustainable recovery and development have equally influenced our industry’s thinking and actions. It is ETRMA’s role to engage in the dialogue with the EU institutions towards such suitable framework enabling industry to successfully leverage its potential for delivering on the Green Deal.
ERJ: Which regulatory developments are top of the agenda for ETRMA in 2022 and why?
Cinaralp: Sustainability-related legislative goals will continue to drive the ETRMA agenda. Use of safe materials, new tire regulatory framework for emissions reductions and road safety, sustainable supply chain underpinned by due diligence and transparency, access to in-vehicle data and transition to a circular economy – just to name the most pressing ones.
ERJ: These goals, we know, include addressing issues around the generation of microplastics in the form of tire/road wear particles (TRWPs). How much progress has been made on this front?
Cinaralp: I expect this topic to remain high on agenda of the policy makers and of Industry until proper and effective measures will be in place, including regulatory initiatives.
In view of the insufficient knowledge about the environmental or health risks. ETRMA commissioned a study on the fate and transportation of TRWPs in the environment and results were published in 2019. Further studies by the Tire Industry Project will soon be shared with the scientific community.
The industry is, meanwhile, working on the development of a robust, representative and reproducible test method to determine the abrasion rate of tires, which can be used for regulatory purposes.
It is in the context of bringing concrete actions under an holistic approach, that ETRMA launched in 2018 the European TRWP Platform. This brings together the scientific community, industry, academia and policy-makers: gathering expertise and scientific information, exchanging knowledge and best practices, co-creating joint mitigation actions, conferring transparency and building trust.
ERJ: Elsewhere, the EU tire labelling regime continues to evolve. What new regulatory developments are in the pipeline?
Cinaralp: The EU regulation 2020/740 of May 2021 introduced new performances (snow and ice) on the label as well as features like the obligation to register tires on the European product database (EPREL) before they are placed on the market. Today, end users can check the details of over 140k different tires registered in EPREL.
One immediate next step is the extension of the label to retreaded truck tires, which will support a long-standing design-for-reuse strategy implemented by the tire industry. Retreading tires leads to 70% material-savings thanks to material recovery and a longer lifespan.
The mid-term next step will reflect the regulatory changes announced by the European Commission to tighten the type-approval limits for fuel efficiency and safety performance from 2024.
The proposals are raising rolling resistance & wet grip performance limits for tires in new state and will introduce wet grip limits for tires at worn state. These new limits would lead gradually to removing from the market tires below Class-C. We can expect that the next revision of tire label regulation will introduce a new grading scheme.
ERJ: Tire makers’ sustainability commitments also encompass establishing value-added applications for secondary raw materials from end-of-life tires (ELTs). Are any significant inroads being made in this area?
Cinaralp: Secondary raw materials from ELTs are important resources for industries such as construction, automotive, cement, etc., and the European tire and recycling industries are focused on increasing the value of secondary raw materials derived from tires.
ETRMA has for more than 20 years been on the path to develop a more circular tire economy, based on the Extended Producer Responsibility model for the management of ELTs tires in most EU Member States. Levels achieved on collecting and recovery of tires are very high.
Life cycle assessment studies clearly demonstrate that one of the most sustainable solutions is material recycling via granulation into new high-quality raw materials, which substitute for virgin rubber and steel in new goods.
Infill materials used in artificial turf pitches – [largely] rubber granules – are considered to be another source of microplastics’ release in the environment.
Tire recyclers and infill installers together with the entire tire value-chain have taken practical steps to implement strict risk management measures, such as mandatory fencing around pitches preventing the spread of rubber granules outside the field. A decision from the European Commission is expected this year.
Now we need to go further in the contribution to circular economy [via] the deployment of secondary raw materials from end-of-life tires. To do so, we need an adapted regulatory framework based on end of waste regulation for ELTs. This will be another important step.
ERJ: On a different front, access to in-vehicle data has been high on the agenda for ETRMA and member companies. What are the latest developments here?
Cinaralp: To support the development of connected services, the tire industry has invested in telematics solutions for accessing in-vehicle data.
Tire solutions for safer and more sustainable operations includes tire pressure monitoring system, tire-mounted sensors and state-of-the-art algorithms that allow among others, preventive maintenance, decarbonisation, optimised fleet transition to electrification.
After 2024 – entry into force of the UNECE cybersecurity regulation for new vehicles – it will no longer be possible to use telematics boxes in new vehicles, which are currently a solution used by service providers in the absence of standard vehicle connections.
To ensure equal and fair access to the functions, data and resources of the vehicle, a robust, mobility-sector specific regulation is needed in Europe. ETRMA will continue promoting this approach with the EU Institutions and the mobility stakeholders.
ERJ: We have seen moves to increase technical collaboration between tire makers in the sustainability arena, such as the Bridgestone/Michelin initiative in recovered carbon black. Might such link-ups have a significant role in addressing the environmental challenges facing the tire industry?
Cinaralp: This call is an example of what ETRMA seeks to achieve in terms of circular economy and goes in the same direction. Increasing stakeholder and partner engagement is key to advance on industry challenges that influence society and the industry as a whole.
We note also that the legislator is moving into that direction by working through ecosystems, which encompass all players operating in a value-chain: from the smallest start-ups to the largest companies, from academia to research, service providers to suppliers.
The European TRWP Platform is one concrete example of such platforms. We can expect to see more of such initiatives where sharing of knowledge, best-practice, effort and investment can create winning strategy for society.
ERJ: Finally, what actions and progress would you like to see made by the European tire & rubber industry during 2022 to help ensure its long-term future success?
Cinaralp: I believe that cooperation, collaboration and co-creation will be the key words for the years to come to allow our industry to drive sustainable change.
Industry/academia/policy-maker interactions are key to knowledge valorisation and to sound policy-making. Robust science and facts pave the way [for a] fair level playing field to lead to growth.
ETRMA and its members are key enablers of sustainable mobility and the tire industry will remain a committed partner at the forefront of innovative and sustainable initiatives to the benefit of society as a whole.
ERJ: Thank you