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Michelin Celebrates 10 Years of a Closed Loop Process Using Micronized Rubber Powder in North America

TIRES Mark Thompson/Getty Images
The closed loop process allows tires to be recycled into tires.

The Michelin North America retread business recently celebrated a decade of business with Lehigh Technologies, a Georgia-based company that manufactures Micronized Rubber Powders.

The Michelin Group's partnership with Lehigh Technologies began early in the specialty chemical company's history, when it began manufacturing Micronized Rubber Powder (MRP) to reuse end-of-life tire materials. Lehigh, acquired by the Michelin Group in October 2017, is now a key element of Michelin's recently announced ambition to make tires with 80 percent sustainable materials by 2048.

"Michelin and our customers will continue to benefit from the implementation of this closed loop approach, where tires are recycled into tires, with Lehigh Technologies," said Gary Scheide, who is responsible for materials manufacturing for Michelin North America, in a statement. "The Lehigh team is a great partner and a reliable supplier to our plants in North America. We look forward to working together to advance our sustainable manufacturing processes as we further incorporate Lehigh's expertise within the Michelin Group."

Lehigh's proprietary technology converts rubber materials into a high technology powder that can be incorporated in new retread compounds offering higher levels of performance. MRP replaces oil- and rubber-based feedstocks in a wide range of industrial and consumer applications, including high-performance tires, plastics, consumer goods, coatings, sealants, construction materials and asphalt. Lehigh technical experts collaborate with customers to optimize products for each application.

Michelin North American retread facilities are zero waste operations as a result of this closed loop model. This circular economy approach to waste avoidance reduces carbon dioxide load and delivers economic advantages to the company.

Michelin's acquisition of Lehigh, now a part of the High Technology Materials Business Unit, supports the company's Sustainable Mobility vision and its ambition to recycle 100 percent of tires by 2048. The company plans to be the global leader in using MRP in new tires. By working with Lehigh, the company ensures that supply chain efficiencies are maximized and that the specification of the materials exactly fits the performance requirements of the retread compounds.

"An increasing number of markets recognize they must improve their sustainability profile and reduce consumption of carbon-based materials," said Christophe Rahier, director of the High Technology Materials Business Line for the Michelin Group, in a statement. "Lehigh's products and technical capabilities enable the use of rubber powders from end-of-life tires to deliver cost savings and performance, as well as sustainability to their customers—not just in the tire industry but also in the asphalt, construction, plastics and coatings markets."

Michelin is committed to growth plans for Lehigh's PolyDyne and MicroDyne products across multiple global, high-performance markets. In the tire industry, the value proposition for MRP has been proven, which is why Michelin supports wide adoption of this technology to make the industry more sustainable and to demonstrate the company's leadership in sustainability and environmental performance. To support MRP adoption in Europe, Michelin is working with Lehigh to build the first MRP plant outside of the U.S., a 10,000-metric-ton facility in Navarra, Spain. The plant will be commissioned this summer.

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