Continental Recycling and Reusing Waste Products for Sustainable Tyre Production

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Published on
February 14, 2023

Continental is paving the way towards using 100 percent sustainable materials in tyre production by 2050. Already, 15 to 20 percent of renewable or recycled materials are being used in their standard passenger car tyres.

The goal is to conserve valuable resources and improve tyre performance with the perfect match of materials. The company is making tyre production more sustainable by using waste products from agriculture, such as the ash from rice husks, rubber from dandelions, recycled rubber, or PET bottles.

Continental's sustainability head, Claus Petschick

Continental's sustainability head, Claus Petschick, says that their company aims to break new ground in sustainable tyre production by reusing and recycling tyres. The ability to reuse end-of-life tyres for the production of new rubber compounds has already been developed and tested in a complex process.

The precise composition of the raw materials used for tyre production is critical to the performance of the tyres. Continental uses a hundred different raw materials, and their engineers and material experts are continuously analyzing and reviewing these materials to increase the proportion of sustainable materials. They aim to ensure that all the materials are ideally matched to each other to create safe, energy-efficient, and durable high-performance tyres.

Pyrolysis process: recovered carbon black (rCB).

Natural rubber is a vital component of tyre production, accounting for 10 to 40 percent of the total weight of modern high-performance tyres. Continental recognizes natural rubber as a sustainable material only if it is sourced responsibly. The company is working on making the supply chains for natural rubber more sustainable by using cutting-edge digital technology, local involvement, and close collaboration with capable partners. They are also industrializing the extraction of natural rubber from specially cultivated dandelion plants.

Fillers like silica are essential to tyre assembly, as they optimize characteristics such as grip, rolling resistance, and tyre life. In the future, rice husks will be used as the source material for sustainably produced silica. Plant-based oils, such as rapeseed oil, and resins based on residual materials from the paper and wood industries offer an alternative to crude-oil-based fillers. Oils and resins allow for flexibility in terms of tyre compounds and improve the material's grip.

In a complex process developed by Continental together with partners, rubber from end-of-life tires is recycled and processed in such a way that it can be reused as a component of new rubber compounds.

Continental is also working on expanding the circular economy by using recycled raw materials in tyre production. The company has signed a development agreement with Pyrum Innovations to optimize the recycling of materials from old tyres. By breaking down old tyres into their constituent parts, carbon black – a crucial filler in rubber compounds – can be obtained on a large scale.

By using waste products and reusing end-of-life tyres, Continental is making significant strides towards sustainable tyre production.

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