Clermont-Ferrand – Michelin and French biochemicals company Carbios have advanced tire sustainability efforts with the development of new tire fibres from PET plastic waste.
In a 23 April statement, Michelin said it had “successfully tested and applied” Carbios’ enzymatic recycling process for PET plastic waste, in order to create a "high tenacity tire fibre that meets its technical requirements."
Carbios’ recycling process uses an enzyme capable of depolymerising the PET contained in various plastics or textiles, including bottles, trays and polyester clothing.
Unlike mechanically recycled PET, the monomers resulting from Carbios’ process can be repolymerised to achieve the high-performance grade required for pneumatic applications, Michelin added.
“The technical fibre obtained is of the same quality as the one from virgin PET, processed with the same prototype installations,” it said.
The high tenacity polyester is particularly suitable for tires, due to its breakage resistance, toughness, and thermal stability, Michelin noted.
“We are very proud to be the first to have produced and tested recycled technical fibres for tires,” said Nicolas Seeboth, director of polymer research at Michelin
The reinforcement materials, he said, were made from colored bottles and “provide performance identical to those from the oil industry”.
The “world-first” tire application for the materials brings Michelin one step closer to its sustainable ambitions.
The French group aims to source 40% of its tire materials sustainably (from renewable or recycled origin) by 2030 and 100% by 2050.
According to Michelin, 1.6 billion car tires are sold worldwide annually, consuming 800,000 tonnes of PET per year.
“When applied to Michelin – this represents nearly 3 billion plastic bottles per year that could be recycled into technical fibres for use in the company’s tires,” it added.