The automotive tyre industry is embarking on a journey of reinvention as it addresses increasingly pressing sustainability concerns. About 6.1 million metric tons of tyre dust are released every year with wear and tear. Containing toxic chemicals, this dust pollutes air, water and soil. While electric vehicles (EVs) offer zero emissions at the tailpipe, they are considerably heavier than their internal combustion engine (ICE) counterparts and increase tyre wear. A number of companies are designing tyres specifically to meet the needs of EVs, but the sustainability picture is bigger than that.
Tyres have a limited lifespan, and many end up in landfills where they could leach toxic chemicals into the environment. Most are eventually incinerated, a process that releases greenhouse gases. “Wherever you touch on the tyre industry, you have carbon emissions, pollution, toxicity and waste,” says Gunnlaugur Erlendsson, Chief Executive of Enso, self-described as the world’s first sustainable tyre manufacturer (enso is Japanese for circular). Erlendsson suggests that some of these problems stem from the product itself, while others are linked to how the industry operates. And the two are closely connected. “We make an innovative product but sell it through a disruptive business model,” he tells Automotive World.