17. Jun 2020

Bioplastics: A Sustainable Alternative to Automotive Tires

Bioplastics: A Sustainable Alternative to Automotive Tires

An estimated 1.5 billion tyres are discarded annually worldwide. Reducing this number is a challenge for the automotive industry, governments, and policymakers. An alternative is to use bioplastics and recycled plastic...

An estimated 1.5 billion tires are discarded annually worldwide. In the US alone, vehicles produce 246 million waste tires. Although recycling efforts are being stepped up and while Europe has reached an all-time high of 98% recovery rate according to the European Tyre Recycling Association (ETRA), the volume of dead tires ending up in landfills or burned for fuel is still staggering. Reducing this number is a challenge for the automotive industry, governments, and policymakers. An alternative is to use bioplastics, renewably sourced from  biomass sources  recycled plastic that can reduce global waste and improve the condition of the planet.

Benefits of Using Bioplastics

Bioplastics have many uses such as packaging, cutlery, and crockery, to name but a few. They can also be used in industrial applications such as the production of tires. The main advantage of using bioplastics is that they emit fewer greenhouse gas emissions compared to traditional plastics. When they break down, there is no net increase in the levels of carbon dioxide, as  the plants, which are a major component of these materials, absorb the same amount of carbon dioxide during the perod of their growth.

Since bioplastics are made from sustainable materials, they naturally break down much faster that traditional plastics. In addition to their reduced carbon footprint, there is also a significant savings in energy costs during production putting less pressure in non-renewable energy sources that are polluting to the environment.

Bioplastics in tires

Among the innovations being introduced in the automotive industry today,  the rising use of bioplastics in vehicles is one of the more striking. With the growing demand for vehicles and at the same time, rising pressure on sustainability and environmental concerns, bioplastics have found application in chassis components and exterior/interior functions. For example, Bobcat T300 tracks  make use of bioplastics to improve efficiency, prolong life, and even road traction. With proper maintenance, green rubber tracks will also improve the bottom line of businesses -while offering an environmentally friendlier option.

Finnish tyre manufacturer, Nokian, is the first manufacturer to offer ‘greener’ tires by producing bags made partly with biomaterials that will reduce carbon dioxide emissions by up to 75%. Each year around 40,000kg of plastic are used per yer in the production of Nokian tire bags in Norway, Sweden, and Finland. By using bioplastics, the production of enclosures will generate a little over 20 tons of carbon dioxide compared to the 88 tons generated by the use of virgin plastic cases and 44 tons using recycled plastic.

The automotive industry is still growing, but is continuously under pressure from environmentalists. Bioplastics are a sustainable and renewable option for tires, and one that can reduce landfill waste and improve efficiencies contributing to a greener and cleaner environment.

(Photo is a generic Picture, just for Illustration)

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