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Earth Day-Friendly Tires Made Using Recycled Water Bottles

Image courtesy of Continental co-contire.tex2-plt-en.png
The cutaway sidewall section reveals the recycled polyester cord used to control the tire's dimensions.
These Continental tires recycle about 10 plastic bottles per tire.

The energy- and material-intensive tire industry may never truly love mother Earth, but Continental seeks for its tires to tread a little lighter by using recycled polyethylene terephthalate (PET) plastic from water bottles in its tires. Continental calls the technology ContiRe.Tex, and it is the beginning of the company’s move toward a goal of shifting to the use of only recycled materials for its products by 2050.

Importantly, this is not a demonstration or an experiment. The company is selling PremiumContact 6 and EcoContact 6 summer tires and the AllSeasonContact tire to customers today that use water bottles as source material.

The water bottle-sourced PET substitutes for the conventional polyester in the carcass of the tires, with about ten bottles recycled per tire, so a set of four tires uses about 40 recycled PET bottles. The exact number of bottles used per tire ranges between nine and 15 bottles, depending on the size of the tire.

The polyester yarn is made directly from plastic bottles without any intermediate chemical processes, so it is more efficient than other methods for processing PET bottles. The bottles are collected from areas where there is no closed recycling loop.

Continental’s supplier cleans the bottles, removes the caps, which are made from a different kind of plastic, and then shreds the bottles into granulate that is spun into polyester yarn.

Image courtesy of Continentalcontiretex_mit_pet_flaschen_1.jpg

This material is exactly the same as the virgin polyester Continental has used previously for these tires, so there are no tradeoffs for durability or performance, according to Ferdinand Hoyos, who heads Continental’s tire replacement business in Europe, Middle East, and Africa (EMEA)

“We only use high-performance materials in our premium tires,” he said. “From now on, these will include polyester yarn from PET bottles, made in a particularly efficient recycling process. We brought our innovative ContiRe.Tex technology to the production stage in just eight months. I’m proud of our entire team for this remarkable achievement.”

The polyester cords in the tires absorb the forces of the tire's internal pressure and remain dimensionally stable even under high loads and temperatures.

Continental has already proved the ContiRe.Tex technology in Extreme E off-road EV racing with the February debut of the Continental CrossContact Extreme E racing tire. A hopefully less strenuous application will be the fleet of support vehicles for this year’s Tour de France, which will be fitted with ContiRe.Tex-technology tires. Maybe next year the bikes' tires will use recycled material too!

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