Collaboration, materials research and new business models will help the global tire industry set the agenda for sustainable mobility. That was the message from Sandra Hofmann, our Director of Technology and Innovation, Synthetic Rubber, at this year’s Future Tire Conference.
The event, which took place in Germany from June 11-12, 2019, brought together the tire value chain to share best practice as the sector leads global sustainability efforts.
Sandra Hofmann talked about legislative, environmental, and behavioral changes driving synthetic rubber producers to not only consider how their products perform, but also what they’re made of. She discussed how electrical and autonomous vehicles, digitalization, more stringent emissions and abrasion aspects are changing demands on tire performance, expanding The Magic Triangle towards a polygon shape, centred around sustainability.
Trinseo’s constant innovation in anionic polymerization and chemical modification is already delivering substantial benefits on one key attribute of sustainability. By contributing to tires with lower rolling resistance, we are creating lower CO2 emissions and therefore increased fuel efficiency. Another route to sustainability is the use of recycled materials, supporting the reduction of both virgin raw materials usage and waste.
On this topic, Sandra Hofmann talked about the pioneering work being done by the Styrenics Circular Solutions (SCS) consortium, of which Trinseo is a founding member. Together, we can recycle styrenic polymers back to original styrene monomer at high purity, with infinite recyclability potential and Trinseo’s joint venture in North America is already proving that at an industrial scale. This styrene monomer can be further used to produce a more sustainable synthetic rubber.
Last but not least, Hofmann addressed other routes for sustainability in tires, namely bio-raw materials and the future contribution that will be played by Bio-Butadiene and recycled tire powder, which can be incorporated into new tire designs.
On the latter she pointed out that Trinseo’s functionalization technology could be used to enable interaction with other compound ingredients like alternative fillers or recycled tire powder content. Hofmann also noted that solutions for Bio-based Butadiene already exist, such as converting sugars into ethanol, but advised that to move forward, the industry needs to source the biomass feedstock from waste, rather than use valuable food sources.
Hofmann concluded that in such a capital-intensive industry, specific projects will have to be carefully picked up by the collaborative value chain, to showcase and support the industry transformation from a cost-conscious mentality into a sector that embraces and contributes to sustainable mobility.