German AZuR reports how tires harm rainforests
German tire recycling organization AZuR reports that while car and truck tire are being produced, rainforests are being destroyed. Manufacturers require rubber, leading to the emergence of more natural rubber plantations at the expense of untouched forests. Although some alternatives exist, AZuR says, the tire industry remains entangled in opaque supply chains.
AZuR pinpoints that seventy percent of the world's rubber harvest goes to the tire industry. However, the sector is under pressure to make its supply chains transparent. Almost always, the journey begins in Asia.
No car tire manufacturer reveals the mixture of its products. They are expected to be durable, have low rolling resistance, good grip, and ideally last a long time. Globally, approximately 1.5 billion car tires are sold annually by around 3000 producers, including industry giants Bridgestone, Goodyear, Pirelli, Michelin, and Continental.
Opaque supply chains
At the end of 2022, alarm bells rang in the industry. The European Union wants proof of the entire supply chain: soon, no tire produced here or imported into Europe may contain natural rubber obtained through rainforest deforestation.
This certification poses a problem for producers because the supply chains from rubber farmers through various intermediaries to Europe have been largely opaque. Hence, companies are looking for alternatives.
Tire industry seeks alternatives
Pirelli collaborates with sustainable producers in Thailand. Michelin attempts to increase tire lifespan with high-tech solutions, while Continental, in partnership with the Fraunhofer Institute, researches a replacement material: Russian dandelion. If cultivated on a large scale in Europe, it could help replace natural rubber. Additionally, discarded used tires, retreaded and processed, could re-enter the market instead of ending up as waste.
Real change or mere greenwashing? MAKRO traces the convoluted supply chains of tire manufacturers to Southeast Asia and investigates the extent to which the tire industry's efforts for "clean" rubber are substantial.
Weibold is an international consulting company specializing exclusively in end-of-life tire recycling and pyrolysis. Since 1999, we have helped companies grow and build profitable businesses.