BTMA members are pursuing the use of recycled, recovered and bio-sourced materials in new tyres without loss of functional performance. Many major manufacturers have committed to producing tyres from 100% sustainable raw materials by 2050, several have published ambitious intermediate targets for 2030.
BTMA members have developed alternative plant-based sources of natural rubber to relieve pressure on supplies from rainforest plantations and have launched pilot plants to produce synthetic rubber from biomass. Tyre manufacturers are already using soy bean-based extender oils and silica produced from rice husks, and will soon be using textile reinforcement derived from recycled plastic bottles made from PET.
Recycling material from old tyres into new ones is challenging due to the material choices that are imposed by the multiple functional requirements that a tyre must satisfy. The incorporation into new tyres of more than a few percent of rubber from end-of-life tyres adversely affects functional performance, wet grip in particular. Research is ongoing into increasing this proportion but large-scale reincorporation of materials from old tyres into new ones requires the use of chemical recycling techniques.
The pyrolysis of end-of-life tyres offers several pathways to material re-use in new tyres. The char can be processed into recovered carbon black (rCB). However, this can only be used in limited quantities in new tyres due to the adverse effect of the presence of other residual materials. More promising is current research into the use of tyre pyrolysis oil as feedstock for the manufacture of sustainable carbon black. This route offers the potential for much higher rates of reincorporation in new tyres than rCB. Research is also ongoing into the use of the gas produced by tyre pyrolysis as a starting point for the manufacture of sustainable synthetic rubber.
- Measures to stimulate the recovery and use of high-level secondary raw materials from tyres offer the triple win of improved recovery outcomes, UK contribution to the regenerative circular economy for tyres and potential UK export growth.
- Balance is needed between the recovery of advanced secondary raw materials from end-of-life tyres and the production of low carbon transport fuels from the same source.