Michelin has discovered a clever futureproof way to manufacturer its tyres

Michelin announces it will take a big step towards its sustainability goals by transforming plastic waste into material it can use in its tyres

Michelin tyres

Michelin has announced a major shift in strategy and production by revealing it has joined forces with a biochemistry company to recycle plastic bottles and transform them into roadgoing tyres.

In an age where companies all over the world are proudly announcing timelines in which to become carbon neutral or sustainable, the French tyre giant has a tougher task than most to meet green demands.

Nevertheless, it has set itself a target of becoming 100 percent sustainable by 2050, a milestone it could be about to take a significant stride towards after joining forces with Carbios to capitalise on its work in enzymatic recycling technology.

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It is seeking to take PET (polyethylene terephthalate) plastic and break it down into two purified monomers, which can be re-polymerised and used again.

In layman's terms, this means PETs - predominantly plastic bottles that make up a big portion of everyday human waste - will be transformed into a material that can be used for the reinforcing fibres that go into tyres.. 

“In 2019, we announced the production of the first PET bottles with 100% Purified Terephthalic Acid (rPTA) from the enzymatic recycling of used plastics,” said Cabios scientific director Alain Marty. “Today, with Michelin, we are demonstrating the full extent of our process by obtaining, from these same used plastics, a recycled PET suitable for highly technical fibres.”

As arguably the best-known tyre company in the world, Michelin has a tougher task than most to ensure it meets sustainable criteria while retaining quality, but research director Nicolas Seeboth is confident the company can achieve both.

“We are very proud to be the first to have produced and tested technical fibres for use in tyres, reinforcements made from colored bottles treated with the enzymatic technology of our partner Carbios. These high-tech reinforcements have demonstrated their ability to provide performance identical to those from the oil industry.”

So long as the Michelin man remains jolly, we’re in...