This month we are discussing companies that are surprisingly or not so surprisingly trying to create products in the more sustainable ways. Last week we talked about plant-based leathers and Matt & Nat; leathers can be made without harming animals and creating less environmental impacts on the planet. This week we will be talking about tires. Sounds pretty boring? Maybe. I hope not. Surprisingly I think you may find it at least a little interesting. Tires. Rubber. Rice. Up-cycled material. What more could a person want?! Let's dive in.
I own a car, nothing that fancy, but it is pretty fuel efficient (what modern car isn't). I would love to own a Tesla Type-Anything if I could but I am not in the position to drop that kind of money but when I can I will! When I service my car I try and get the best products on the market, using these products as long as I can, and disposing of them properly when they brake. For example I bought Bosch wiper-blades, the set ran me close to $60 and they have lasted me almost 5 years; I know some people that spend half as much and buy a couple sets a year because they don't want to spend the money upfront for a good long lasting pair. This may seem minor but let us consider this: 1 pair-5years-$60 OR 10 pairs-5years-$300. This comparison may be trivial but if we think about the waste that we produce when buying cheap things it clearly stacks up! 1 pair of wiper-blades that are expensive produces far lest waste then 10 pairs and in the long run is significantly cheaper! This is true for anything we maintain our cars with; cheap oil filters will not last as long, cheap headlights will burn out faster, and so on and so on. The tires you equip your car with play a huge factor in how well your car runs and how much more of an environmental impact you will have.
In 2015 Goodyear and other huge tire manufacturers announced that they will be using silica from spent rice hulls to produce tires. This is huge. Up until recently, tires were predominantly made from rubber derived from petroleum and were not that technologically advanced. In the mid 2000's during the start of the climate change push, tire industry researchers heard the outcry of their consumers and started to look for ways to reduce the environmental impact of tires. They found that most of the impact was from the actual use of the tire, creating resistance between the movement of the car and the road. During their findings the researchers found that roughly 85% of the emissions associated with vehicle tires were from un-needed friction to the road. The researchers worked to figure out tires that had less friction which decreased fuel consumption and ultimately decreased emissions. This did not satisfy consumers.
Using spent rice hulls, instead of harvesting new matter, meant that Goodyear was not only looking for alternatives to petroleum but they also realized the impact of their resource acquisition. Using a waste product not only helps close the loop between manufacturing, consuming, and wasting it also reduces the environmental impact of another industry. As biomass is composted the microbial's eating the waste produce GHG's adding to our climate change problem. Utilizing the spent rice hulls from rice production means that these emissions are taken out of the environment. Now this might open discussion up to weighing the emissions of the microbial's to that of the processing of the spent rice hulls. In my opinion this is a moot point. Goodyear and other tire manufacturers might look to first consumption plant-based resources, meaning that they would have to process fresh matter to produce their tires and I would argue this would cause more emissions then using the spent rice hulls. No matter the case, the fact of the matter is that tire manufacturers realize the environmental impact of their industry and are changing their ways.
Through the understanding of consumer demands, tire manufacturers are integrating new innovations into their tires in an effort to reduce their products emissions and environmental impact. This is done through a variety of ways but most recently and the one we are focusing on is silica derived from spent rice husks. First off, what is silica? Silica is an additive that is in numerous products from toothpaste to hamburger meat and tires. Silica is added to tires to reduce friction which decrease emissions (as discussed earlier) as well as reduce heat. Silica or silicon is a naturally occurring element on earth but is always mixed in with other things. Traditionally it would be extracted from various non-organic compound using intense soluble and toxic chemicals. The silica extracted from rice hulls is a fairly less laborious task requiring much less chemical to purify. As an added bonus, the silica extracted from plant-based compounds is pure compared to that of non-organic material that yields lower quality. As I mentioned before, the higher the grade the less you need; the same is true here.
We are also seeing this year, 2017, Goodyear announce the integration of soybean derived rubber into their tires. This may be a little while yet until they integrate this technology into all their products but this is still a huge step forward.
The next time you are shopping for tires take the time to search the market and find a set that has less friction and that is made from spent rice hulls. Understanding the products we buy and how they were made and demanding more sustainably produced goods we will change global markets. By buy products that are more durable, more eco-friendly, and possibly spending a little but more; we will show producers that we demand change. You have the power to change the world!
Thank you for reading and don't forget to subscribe!