London – The European rubber industry will undergo its “biggest transformation ever” as it adapts to the far-reaching requirements of the EU Climate Green Deal, believes Fazilet Cinaralp, secretary general of the European Tire & Rubber Manufacturers’ Association,
Under the Green Deal, EU lawmakers aim to make Europe the first climate-neutral continent by 2050, by becoming a more resource-efficient, cleaner, smarter and trustworthy economy, Cinaralp said at the recent World Rubber Summit 2021 (WRS '21).
Brussels, she said, has placed “huge emphasis” on ‘circularity’, where the value of materials, resources and products is maintained for as long as possible and while minimising waste..
“This means a new way of thinking that covers "everything from design to end-of-life and back again,” the ETRMA leader said in a presentation at the WRS '21 held virtually 8-11 June.
Among other "overarching" goals, the EU is really looking at "creating a toxic-free environment, free from any type of contamination or pollution" as well as to developing strategic autonomy in key areas including raw materials.
Focusing in on aspects that carry the most impact for the tire & rubber industry, Cinaralp said the vision of the Green Deal is to really promote a decarbonised transport.
Cinaralp said every sector will have to contribute to the objective of reducing emission by 55% by 2030 and 90% by 2050, adding that to achieve this the EU will have to introduce very transformative policies.
This, she added, includes policies to make transport more smart also more sustainable, to improve manufacturing practices with, of course, an elimination of pollution.
An integrated mobility approach will be required with even more transparency in the supply-chain, including for natural rubber and the circularity of the material.
While the tire & rubber industry shares this vision and is investing to make it happen, it "needs a supportive regulatory framework so that investments are made in the right order and with the right objectives in mind.
For example, she said Europe is moving from internal combustion engines (ICEs) to electric vehicles in a very aggressive manner but must make surte that this is done properly. and in a holistic manner.
"This has consequences for skills, investments, with all the industries affected as millions of people will be moving from ICE to battery technology. But we don’t yet have the battery plants and infrastructure in Europe."
The tire industry, for instance, is being asked to improve efficiency and increase safety, while also reducing emissions and extending the lifetime of its products.
"As an industry we are working also on so many different areas," said Cinaralp, noting for example the progress made by European tire manufacturers in reducing emissions and introducing automation, digitalisation and AI technologies at their factories.
These, she said, are "intensive activities" requiring investment as well the upskilling of the workforce for the new roles , which will be required in manufacturing tires and rubber products of the future.
On the product-innovation front, Cinaralp said "we not only talking about tires as a product but tires-as-a-service as well and also changing the role of the tire in the value-chain. We have to introduce these concepts at the moment of design in order to make sure we have the right mobility solutions."
"Mobility-as-a-service will make a significant contribution to the Green Deal objectives and the tire industry will be part of that," she emphasised.
With regard to sustainability in the supply-chain the ETRMA leader said this was no longer just an option "it is going to be in the [legislative] text," which will require more transparency, more responsiveness and more integration across value-chains.
"Materials will be looked at to understand their environmental impact and we have as our industry a very special focus on the sourcing on natural rubber," continued Cinaralp. "Sustainability in the supply chain is an area in which we will have more to do and deforestation-free supply will happen."
Cinaralp went on to comment on the implications of the Green Deal for end-of-life product management and the millions of tonnes of tire and rubber materials which need to be looked after.
New attention will be given to chemicals and ensuring that both new and recycled material are free of any toxic-content, said the secretary general, adding that "there is a lot of work going on" in this area.
Developing innovative applications for recycled materials is another important focal point as is of the extension of the lifetime of the product.
The tire industry, especially the truck & bus segment in Europe, has a very successful business model in the area of retreading, which saves raw materials and resources and prevents waste-generation.
In conclusion, Cinaralp said that "the strategy for climate decarbonisation and innovation in Europe will drive growth but will also require special focus on sustainability. The possibilities are huge and investments are happening now."