Bridgestone is the first tire company to use recovered carbon black in the large-scale manufacturing of new tires, paving the way for reductions in carbon emissions in an industry that has long been plagued by waste issues.
Carbon black is fundamentally a particulate byproduct of the incomplete combustion of petroleum products. Tire manufacturers use it as a reinforcing filler, making their products stronger and more durable, but it is also utilized as a pigment for inks and paints. "Virgin" carbon black is created primarily by injecting liquid petroleum into a gas-fired furnace. This process produces not just carbon black, but CO2 and other byproducts.
Delta-Energy Group group came up with a process that can recover carbon black from used rubber products, including tires. This process produces 81 percent less carbon dioxide per ton than that of creating virgin carbon black. Bridgestone purchased 235 metric tons (the equivalent of 70,000 used tires) in recovered carbon black from Delta-Energy, using it as reinforcing filler in tires for both agricultural and passenger applications.
According to Bridgestone, this recycling method reduced the amount of CO2 produced in the manufacture of those tires by 765,000 pounds. And this isn't just a PR stunt or proof-of-concept. By the end of 2020, Bridgestone plans to purchase nearly 30 times the amount of recovered carbon black used thus far—or the equivalent of two million used tires.
"Bridgestone Group is deeply committed to advancing an environmentally sustainable society by supporting a truly circular economy," said Bridgestone CTO Nizar Trigui "Through this partnership with Delta-Energy Group, we hope to shape the future of our industry and ensure efficient mobility solutions for generations to come."
Not only is tire recycling a tricky prospect in and of itself, but market forces have often derailed initiatives intended to promote the practice. In 2016, California discovered that demand for used tires in China resulted in vast quantities being shipped overseas, where they were burned for fuel. The resulting smog crossed the Pacific, bringing that waste carbon right back home.