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Michelin wants to make tires out of recycled plastic bottles

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Michelin says its goal of “achieving 40% sustainable materials (of renewable or recycled origin) by 2030 and 100% by 2050” is one step closer to reality. The French tire giant has successfully tested a plastic recycling technology by French biochemistry company Carbios that can be used in tire production.

Carbios’ enzymatic recycling process for polyethylene terephthalate (more commonly known as PET) plastic waste relies on an enzyme that is capable of depolymerizing plastic. PET is the type of plastic used to make bottles, polyester clothing and even some types of carpets. It’s commonly recycled (including into fleece jackets), but is also one major source of plastic waste. According to Michelin, conventional recycling practices do not result in a product suitable for use in tires, but the enzymatic process’ resulting “high tenacity polyester is particularly suitable for tires, due to its breakage resistance, toughness, and thermal stability.”

“These high-tech reinforcements have demonstrated their ability to provide performance identical to those from the oil industry,” said Nicolas Seeboth, director of polymer research at Michelin, in a statement.

Michelin estimates that nearly 3 billion plastic bottles per year could be recycled into technical fibers for use in the company’s tires.

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