Often when we consider ways to reduce our dependency on petroleum products in the transportation industry, we’re thinking about the fuel we put in our vehicles. Biodiesel, electricity, and hydrogen are all innovative fueling solutions that help preserve natural resources and reduce carbon emissions in our atmosphere. Yet the tires on vehicles are a challenge society has been trying to address for decades, yet the damage continues to mount–quite literally!
Challenge: Tires have traditionally contained a high amount of petroleum products.
Traditional tires are comprised of a complex recipe of ingredients. Depending on the type of tire, 30 to 40 chemicals go into the making of tire rubber compounds. A conventional makeup includes 28% natural rubber from latex sap, 28% synthetic rubber made from oil, 28% carbon black filler (essentially soot from burning fossil fuels), and 16% miscellaneous materials.
Solutions: Multiple companies have been working on creating tires from non-petroleum-based ingredients. For example, in 2007, Dunlop Falken introduced a tire made of 97% non-petroleum materials. They anticipated this blend would reduce carbon emissions during the manufacturing process by 17% compared to traditional tires.
Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company has been manufacturing tires made with soybeans for several years. In their 2019 Corporate Responsibility Report, they committed to increasing consumption of soybean oil by 25% by 2020 and to fully replace petroleum products in the tires by 2040. In 2021, they further solidified their partnerships with soybean growers by strengthening their Business Conduct Manual and Supplier Code of Conduct policy to ensure positive support of growers using sustainable practices that are good for the environment and their communities.
Challenge: The traction from driving forces the vehicle to burn more fuel.
During the first decade of the 21st century, researchers discovered the number one aspect related to the tire that contributes to greenhouse gas emissions–a complete 86%–is caused by the amount of fuel the vehicle burns just to make the tires move easily (aka “overcoming resistance to rolling” in technical terms).
Solutions: Tire companies began to develop low rolling resistance tires that generate 5% less friction on the pavement. This simple change boosts fuel economy between 4% and 8% and reduces the vehicle’s gasoline usage for up to 80 gallons over the lifetime of the tire.
Challenge: They don’t break down in landfills.
In 2004, the EPA reported that 27 million pounds of scrap tires were disposed of in landfills. While this number is large, it seemed optimistic since this only represented 9.3% of scrapped tires that year. A whopping 233 million (80.4%) were reused, converted, or otherwise recycled.
In 2020, the U.S. Tire Manufacturers Association released its 14th Scrap Tire Management Report. Unfortunately, the report reveals a static level of recycling or repurposing while the total amount of scrap grows. In 2013, 96% of scrap were recycled or repurposed, but that number dropped to 76% in 2019.
Solutions: USTMA’s report outlines options to reduce tires scrapped into landfills. Most states are working on strengthening legislation to restrict dumping tires into landfills and stockpiles or burning them. Further promotion of recycling and repurposing tires is needed to continue to use scrap tires for productive means such as an alternative to asphalt for playgrounds.
What can you do to help the environment?
When choosing your next set of tires, consider purchasing tires made of “green” materials. With more options available, there are good alternatives for almost any vehicle. And as the new set of tires goes onto the car, ask where and how they dispose of their used goods. If they don’t have a program that recycles or repurposes tires, consider taking them somewhere that does–or find a way to reuse them at home as an upcycled planter or fitness obstacle course.
Visit us to learn more at www.roguevalleycleancities.org. Together, we can keep our communities clean for generations to come! The Rogue Valley Clean Cities’ mission is to promote and educate on alternative fuels, seek to decrease dependency on petroleum, and promote clean air and water in the Rogue Valley via alternate fuels. Contact us today for more information!