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NewsMichelin Science Communication Boss Talks Harmful Tire Particles, Company's Plan to Fix...

Michelin Science Communication Boss Talks Harmful Tire Particles, Company’s Plan to Fix Them

Tiremaker knows more research is needed for cleaner rubber

  • Michelin funding research into tire particulates

  • Company says it has cut particles significantly in last decade


As automakers work to curb exhaust emissions, the focus on vehicle pollution has shifted. New research puts the spotlight on tires and the particulates they shed as they wear. Michelin is looking to find out more about the problem. We spoke with the company’s director of scientific communication at the company’s first Sustainablity Summmit about the company’s plans to address it.

Headlines that claim tires release more particles than vehicle exhaust and reports that say millions of tons of tire particles end up in the ocean are hard to ignore. Cyrille Roget, Scientific Innovation and Communication Director at Michelin, doesn’t think you should.

Michelin showcases tire particulate capture system | Photo: Michelin

Roget said that when it comes to reducing tire emissions goals, tire longevity can be important, but it’s not a key. A tire with more tread will last longer than one with less, but it will have more particulate emissions during that time.

He said that to help reduce particulate emissions, the company has instead been focused on the rubber. “That’s what Michelin has been doing for many years. We have studied compound and structure to be able to reduce emissions.”

Photo: Michelin

He said that between 2015 and 2020, the company reduced its tire particulate emissions by five percent. Michelin has supported regulation worldwide to limit these emissions, which will soon come into effect in the EU.

Roget said that Michelin knows where it sits because it has been working on the problem. But he recognizes that the problem goes beyond one tire company. “The fact that we are a leader in terms of performance means that we have a certain responsibility also to lead the industry to change.”

However, change is complex and requires identifying the problem. Roget pointed out that the company and the industry as a whole don’t know much about what happens to tire particles.

“We know that they degrade pretty fast, which makes them probably very different from the plastic coming from bottles and things like that. This is why you don’t see huge piles of particles on the side of the road.”

“There is a degradation process we need to understand,” he said but added that the best research on the subject is from the 1980s. To gain more insight, Michelin is working with the centre national de la recherche scientifique, the largest research agency in Europe. Along with CNRS and the University of Clermont Auvergne, the new lab is working to understand the degredation of tire particles and to help develop solutions to make them bio-assimilable and not “forever chemicals” as many plastic particles are referred to.

 

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