According to the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the Earth is 1.1°C warmer than it was in the 1800s and is “not on track to meet the Paris Agreement target to keep global temperature from exceeding 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels.”
“That is considered the upper limit to avoid the worst fallout from climate change,” the organization states on its website.
Recent climate reports reveal a bleak future for the planet. But manufacturers and suppliers in the rubber industry display confidence in doing their part to achieve a more sustainable future.
Players big and small in the industry have heeded the call for carbon neutrality by 2050, identifying initiatives to reduce their carbon footprints, such as using renewable energy for powering operations, seeking alternative materials for eco-friendly products, establishing a circular economy with recycled materials and even giving back to local communities.
In October, silicone supplier Elkem Co. rolled out its “road map” to sustainability that included goals to reduce CO2 emissions by 28% from 2020 to 2031 and increase the use of renewable or recycled products by 39%, aiming for net-zero emissions by 2050.
The Norwegian company followed up with news of its investment in the “world’s first carbon capture pilot for (silicon) smelters.”
“Elkem aims to be part of the solution to combat climate change — and to be one of the winners in the green transition,” Elkem CEO Helge Aasen said in a statement, adding that the company aims to shape “a better and more sustainable future.”
Testing instrument supplier Montech GmbH, which already runs its Buchen, Germany-based factory entirely with renewable energy, told Rubber News that it’s seeking a 100% recycling rate. To achieve this, the firm is looking at several solutions, including minimizing process oils, reusing treated wastewater, recycling all waste material and upgrading machinery to recover energy.
Global Rubber Industries (Pvt.) Ltd., a Colombo, Sri Lanka-based specialty tire maker, rolled out several initiatives to establish an environmentally friendly manufacturing process. This includes using waste material to generate thermal energy, using solar power for electrical energy, recycling water and planting trees, reusing and reclaiming rubber, and more.
Other major tire makers, such as Continental A.G., Bridgestone Americas Inc., Michelin, Hankook Tire & Technology, Pirelli & C. S.p.A. and many more, have made similar commitments.
Conti, 150 years in the game with 21 business units and a carbon footprint of 125 million metric tons annually, seeks to be 100% carbon neutral, 100% emissions-free, achieve a 100% circular economy and obtain a 100% responsible value chain — all by 2050.
Likewise, Bridgestone and Nokian Tyres plc are harnessing the power of the sun to achieve their goals of carbon neutrality. Bridgestone said it’s targeting a reduction of total CO2 emissions by 2030 for carbon neutrality by 2050.
“As a renewable CO2-free power source, solar power has a significantly smaller impact on the environment compared to other power-generation methods,” Andrew Thompson, director of sustainability policy for Bridgestone Americas, previously told Rubber News.
And in July, Bridgestone Corp. converted four tire plants in Japan to use 100% renewable sources for electricity using hydro, geothermal, solar and/or wind energy.
Nokian, which claims to be the first to power a manufacturing facility with solar power, uses solar for its administration and manufacturing facilities in Dayton, Tennessee, achieving Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) v4 certification for the site.
The U.S. Green Building Council awards LEED certification to companies that exhibit some of the highest levels of efficiency and sustainability.