Material from shredded tyres also finds a second life as tyre-derived products. The steel and textile components are extracted and recycled separately during the shredding process. Next, the pure rubber granulate goes into the manufacture of panels to provide buildings with protection, like insulation and sealing. And as fine-particle granulate, it becomes elastic filler material on sports grounds with artificial grass.
Even finer material such as rubber powder can be used in the construction of roads, for example as a tarmac layer capable of absorbing noise.
Tyre development and protecting the environment
The topic of sustainability is high on the agenda at Continental. We continually strive to make our tyres more energy efficient and eco-friendly, with specialists from a wide variety of fields collaborating in the areas of research and development, testing and production.
Their brief is to improve not just manufacturing, but also the use and recycling stages of a tyre’s life cycle. The teams examine every single tyre component and – where possible – propose substituting them with new materials that are more compatible with the environment.
This focus on greater sustainability has already made a positive impact on the production line at Continental. An innovative and award-winning process, the ContiLifeCycle plant, can harvest waste rubber for reuse in tyre production at the same time as end-of-life truck tyres are retreaded and brought back into service.
Elsewhere, we have tyres for hybrid and electric vehicles that deliver a 30-per-cent improvement in rolling resistance over a standard tyre, which helps reduce CO2 emissions. With this tyre fitted, hybrid cars can travel further in electric mode without engaging the internal combustion engine. And our tyre developers have not compromised on safety to achieve this improved rolling resistance; the tyre has EU Tyre Label “A” ratings for both rolling resistance and braking distances in wet conditions.
Another one of our sustainability activities is to obtain rubber from the dandelion flower. In cooperation with the Fraunhofer Institute for Molecular Biology and Applied Ecology, the objective is to use natural latex derived from the roots of the dandelion as a commercially viable substitute for natural latex from rainforest plantations.
Best of all, the dandelions can grow on land considered unsuitable for food crops, so that creating a rubber plantation adjacent to a tyre plant in Central Europe makes sense both economically and ecologically. Some of the advantages of this approach are as follows:
- Shorter transportation distances mean a substantial drop in CO2 emissions;
- A reduction in monocultures of rubber trees in rainforest regions;
- The tyre manufacturer can protect itself from price volatility on the global rubber market.
Up to 30 percent of the rubber in a standard car tyre comes from the rubber tree (Hevea brasiliensis), so the benefits of this alternative source are immediately apparent.