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Goodyear ready to roll out a more environmentally friendly tire

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Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company
In 2022, The Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company announced it developed a tire with 70% sustainable-material content, including what it called industry-leading innovations. Goodyear’s 70% sustainable-material tire includes 13 featured ingredients across nine different tire components.

Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company has unveiled tires that have a substantially increase in the amount of sustainable materials used in their production.

The new tires are made of 70% sustainable materials, which Senior Vice President of Global Operations and Chief Technology Officer Chris Helsel said is a significant improvement from current tires.

"For reference, your normal tire sold today might have up to like a 30% content," he said, "and that's because of predominantly the natural rubber."

In 2020, Goodyear set the goal of creating a tire made 100% with sustainable materials. The company began looking at the materials used in traditional tires, like petroleum, silica and carbon black, and finding eco-friendly alternatives or sustainable ways to source them.

Carbon black is essential for a part of the tire production process called vulcanization, invented by Charles Goodyear in the 19th century. The use of carbon black and silica allow for the rubber in the tire to stiffen and withstand friction, rather than wearing away like an eraser.

"So, the bottom line is how can you make that carbon black — which is a really good filler, and it does so many great things in terms of getting performance in tires — but don't get it derived from petrochemical petroleum," Helsel said.

In its sustainable tires, Goodyear is sourcing four types of carbon black from methane, carbon dioxide, plant-based oils and oils pulled from recycled tires during a process called pyrolysis.

"These carbon black technologies target reduced carbon emissions, circularity and the use of bio-based carbons, while still delivering on performance," according to the news release.

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Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company
Bottles of rice husk, ash and silica.

The company is also harvesting silica from rice husk waste residue, which Helsel said has a high silica content.

In place of petroleum, Goodyear uses soybean oil in its sustainable tires, which Helsel said leads to better temperature performance and a tire that can withstand all types of weather.

"There's unique property about the soybean oil, or that class of oils, that gives you better low temperature performance," Helsel said. "By being able to maintain the rubber [pliability], it gets better performance across a broader range of temperature, which is perfect for what we use or are familiar with, especially in Ohio."

Other substances in the tire, like polyester cords and traction material, are being made with recycled plastic bottles and pine tree resin respectively.

The new sustainable tire lasts just as long as a traditional one, and meets European standards on fuel economy, traction, noise and tread, Helsel said.

"What we found is these tires actually perform at the very highest standards," he said. "We're able to put in these new class materials and still achieve the most premium of tire performance."

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Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company
A Goodyear Assurance WeatherReady tire sits in a soybean field. Rather than petroleum, Goodyear uses soybean oil in its sustainable tires.

Goodyear is undertaking a new marketing strategy in rolling out the sustainable tires, asking those interested in purchasing to register for updates online. The registration will work similarly to a presale, Helsel said, and allow the company to gauge demand before the tires hit the market.

"What we're trying to do now is commercialize that up to that level," Helsel said, "and then still continue to push with this 90% demonstration to then motivate the next group to start putting in place the ability to give us material quantities that you can actually make some amount of tires out of."

Goodyear also debuted a demonstration tire made with 90% sustainable material Wednesday, but Helsel said they don't plan on having that tire on the market for a few years. He said the supply of material used in this tire is too limited to introduce the product to the market. Instead, the company is hoping the 70% sustainable tire will increase interest, motivate investors to fund sustainable tires and increase the supply of materials to make them.

"If you don't first prove the science, you can't establish the pull," he said. "The demos are really important because we're really trying to motivate and even show the industry what's possible."

In the meantime, Helsel encouraged motorists to maintain their current tires, which he said can improve the fuel economy and tire lifespan.

"You get a lot more out of them, and if you do that, that's sustainability as well."

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Zaria Johnson is a reporter/producer at Ideastream Public Media covering the environment.