Bridgestone to use desert shrubs for rubber tyres

PHOTO: Bridgestone

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NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE - As part of its efforts to achieve carbon neutrality and 100-per cent renewable tires by 2050, Bridgestone Americas aims to commercialise guayule, a woody desert shrub as a source of natural rubber and environmentally sustainable crop. 

Guayule, pronounced gwa-yoo-li, is a heat tolerant, woody shrub that thrives in the desert, particularly America’s desert southwest. Because the shrub can be farmed with existing row-crop equipment, it’s seen as cost-saving for farmers. It also requires as little as half the water required to grow existing crops such as cotton and alfalfa.

Guayule is part of the brand’s plan to achieve carbon neutrality and make tires from 100 per cent renewable materials by 2050. 

To support this full offensive, Bridgestone has invested more than $100 million US dollars (S$141 million) into guayule research. Alongside guayule, the company is researching a range of solutions to support the recycling of materials from end-of-life tires and promote the replacement of non-renewable materials such as oil, silica and virgin carbon black in new tires. 

“With guayule, we can reduce the environmental impacts that come with overseas sourcing while also realising a more sustainable agricultural system for parts of this country that are facing persistent and worsening climate conditions,” said Nizar Trigui, Chief Technology Officer and Group President, Solutions Businesses, Bridgestone Americas, Inc. 

Bridgestone also plans to invest an additional $42 million US dollars to establish commercial operations, with additional investment and expansion planned toward 2030.

The company will collaborate and partner with local US farmers and Native American tribes to increase capacity of up to 25,000 additional acres of farmland for planting and harvesting guayule at scale.

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The company first produced a tire made from guayule-derived natural rubber in 2015. Firestone Firehawk race tires made with guayule-derived natural rubber in the sidewall were then introduced at the Indy 500 Pit Stop Challenge in May of 2022. Following that, it made its competition debut as the alternate race tire at the Big Machine Music City Grand Prix in Nashville on Aug 7. 

Bridgestone is targeting to have 350 new acres of guayule to be planted this coming year. By the end of the decade, it aims to to target sustainable commercial production of guayule-derived natural rubber.

This article was first published in CarBuyer.