Sector News

Soybean oil tires: Can Goodyear’s new ecological rubber solution alter packaging?

January 14, 2023
Chemical Value Chain

Goodyear has released a method using soybean oil, rice husks and pine resin to create a tire with 90% environmentally sustainable materials. This innovation could open a new door for the packaging industry to adopt similar materials in its rubber products.

With the global push toward more environmental options, many companies in different sectors have been experimenting with alternative materials from the mainstream, with the tire industry now joining in. Besides its natural ingredients, the tire’s polyester is recycled from post-consumer bottles.

The packaging industry could embrace the new eco-conscious rubber created for the tire as another rubber solution for products. The bio-renewable pine resin in the tire replaces standard petroleum-based resins. This may also prove to be a more beneficial option for packages where petroleum-based resins are used.

“We researched new technologies, identified opportunities for further collaboration and utilized our team’s tenacity to not only demonstrate our capabilities to produce a 90% sustainable-material tire, but to also produce a tire with up to 70% sustainable-material content this year,” says Chris Helsel, senior vice president of global operations and chief technology officer at Goodyear.

Where the rubber meets the road
Goodyear has stated it still needs to figure out scaling measures before bringing the demonstration tire to market. Still, the company plans to deliver a 70% sustainable material tire to market this year. The capacity issues come from the number of new materials required to manufacture the tire. The products might use less of one material, which leads to a search elsewhere and potentially exhausting the replacement resource.

Soybean oil is a bio-based resource that keeps the tire’s rubber compound pliable in changing temperatures. The company says a significant surplus of the oil left over from food and animal feed applications is available for use in industrial applications.

The rubber tires also use silica from rice husk waste residue, a byproduct of rice processing that is often discarded and put into landfills.

There are two main types of rubber – natural and synthetic. Besides natural rubber, average tires utilize steel, textiles, synthetic polymers, and many chemicals that can adversely affect the environment. Usually, as tires wear, they leave behind bits of rubber and chemicals that pollute the environment. However, Goodyear’s new tire is said to leave behind a whiff of tofu and a hint of pine schnapps.

Goodyear unveiled the tire at the Consumer Electronics Show last week. It passed all regulatory and internal tests for road use. The company aims to introduce its first 100% sustainable tire by 2030.

Rubber packaging
Rubber is often implemented in forming seals and closures for packages. Plastics and rubber materials are made from the same families of polymers; what differentiates the materials from one another is what additives are included. Rubbers are elastomers, polymers with elastic properties, setting them apart from plastics.

Rubber sheeting is another popular packaging solution. The sheets can be used for various applications, such as gaskets, strips and shapes. Rubber materials are also widely used in systems used to manufacture, package and deliver pharmaceutical products.

According to the Plastics Industry Association, US monthly shipments of plastics and rubber fluctuated in 2022 between US$22.1 billion and US$22.5 billion. The number of shipments peaked in April and then decreased.

Using the rubber from tires has been explored by the packaging industry before. Spanish research group Aimplas launched a group of advanced and mechanical recycling solutions to convert rubber tires and other sources of complex waste back into the plastics value chain for packaging and other applications last year.

By Sabine Waldeck


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