Continental says it has become the first tyre manufacturer to launch volume production of recycled polyester yarn obtained from PET plastic bottles into passenger car tyres.
The head of Continental’s tyre replacement business in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa, Ferdinand Hoyos, said: “We’re constantly expanding the share of renewable and recycled materials in our tyres. By 2050 at the latest, we want to use only sustainable materials in our tyre production.”
In September 2021, Continental unveiled their inhouse ContiRe.Tex technology for the first time. It uses polyester yarn, which is obtained from used PET bottles without any intermediate chemical steps and not recycled in any other way. Continental claims this makes the technology much more efficient than other standard methods for processing PET bottles into high-performance polyester yarns.
The bottles used for the technology come exclusively from regions without a closed recycling loop, it says. As part of a special recycling process, the bottles are sorted and mechanically cleaned, after the caps are removed. After mechanical shredding, the PET is further processed into granulate and finally spun polyester yarn.
Using new ContiRe.Tex technology developed to replace the conventional polyester in a tyre carcass, material recycled from around 40 PET bottles is needed to create a set of standard tyres.
Polyester yarn made from PET has long been used as a material in passenger and light truck tyre assembly; the textile cords absorb the forces of the tyre’s internal pressure and remain dimensionally stable even under high loads and temperatures.
As part of its goal to only use sustainable materials throughout its tyre production process, Continental say there are “intensively researching” alternative methods for tyre production to try and make tyres more energy-saving and environmentally friendly in manufacturing, use, and recyclability.
The material will first be used in selected sizes for Continental’s PremiumContact 6 and EcoContact 6 summer tyres.
In September 2021, the tyre manufacturer debuted the Conti GreenConcept, using polyester from recycled plastic bottles in the carcass, at IAA MOBILITY. For the second season of the all-electric Extreme E racing series, which opened in February 2022, Continental has developed a tyre which uses ContiRe.Tex too. The support vehicles for this year’s Tour de France will also be equipped exclusively with ContiRe.Tex tyres.