Old bottles for new tyres

By 2050 at the latest, all tyres produced by tyre manufacturer Continental are to be made of sustainable materials. There is still a long way to go until then, says the companny. But step by step, it is already becoming apparent which raw materials will find their way into tire construction in the future. These include waste products from agriculture – such as the ash from rice husks – rubber from dandelions, recycled rubber or PET bottles.

Depending on the application, season and environment, tyres have to fulfill specific requirements. This can be seen in, for example, the tread design. But in other areas – the composition of the rubber compound, for example – these changes are not so readily visible. Passenger car tyres from Continental consist of as many as a hundred different raw materials. Their precise composition has a major impact on the tyres and their handling characteristics. The ability to deploy the various materials with their unique properties and interdependencies in specific ways is a complex balancing act for Continental’s engineers and material experts. Only when all the materials are ideally matched to each other can safe, energy-efficient and durable high-performance tyres be created, says the company.

Recycled plastic bottles for tyre cord fabric and in tyre casing

“Recycled raw materials are going to play a big role in making tyres more sustainable. We use recycled materials whenever possible. Comparable quality and material properties to conventional raw materials are crucial for us,” says Claus Petschick, Head of Sustainability at Continental Tires. For the tyre cord fabric, Continental is using high-quality polyester yarn obtained from recycled PET bottles. With its ContiRe.Tex technology, the tyre manufacturer has developed an energy-efficient and eco-friendly way that allows to reuse between nine and fifteen plastic bottles for each tyre, depending on the tyre size.

The recycled PET has already replaced conventional polyester in the structures of some tyre casing. The PET bottles used are sourced exclusively from regions where there is no closed recycling loop.

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