How the tyre industry is going green

Flower Power: How The Tyre Industry Is Going Green

Culture /


Jeremy Taylor and Jessica Saunders explore dandelion fuel

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Motoring editor Jeremy Taylor and sustainable fashion expert Jessica Saunders discuss how the tyre industry is wheel-spinning towards a greener future

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Flower Power: How The Tyre Industry Is Going Green

JT – Did you know that weeds are the future of the tyre industry?

JS – That wasn’t a general knowledge question in the Christmas pub quiz, but obviously there’s more of a story to tell?

There is. Dandelions are a ubiquitous weed favoured for centuries by herbalists. Taraxacum officinale has been a vital part of Chinese medicine for 1,000 years – and we haven’t even mentioned a drink of dandelion and burdock.

With you so far – but what do dandelions have to do with cars?

Well, both the Romans and Greeks used the leaves and roots of dandelions to remove toxins from the bloodstream. Those fluffy, lightweight dandelion seeds can gently waft up to five miles in a breeze – although they’re now set to carry us even further, in the industrial manufacture of road tyres.

You’re kidding, right?

I’m not. Tyres have a huge impact on the way a car performs, but they’re also made from an unsustainable material that’s difficult to dispose of after use.

And dandelions?

The yellow-flowered plant is about to become the key ingredient in tyres, as Goodyear looks to replace the latex from rapidly depleting numbers of rubber trees, with natural rubber latex from dandelion roots.

Goodyear Dandelion Tyre

Goodyear

Is that the white, milky stuff we used to squeeze out of the stem as children?

It’s actually from the dandelion root. The species of dandelion best suited is called taraxacum kok-saghyz. And guess what: it’s a lot easier to grow than pronounce, meaning these super weeds can also be grown in temperate climates across the world.

So why are dandelions better than rubber trees?

Unlike the seven-year turnaround time a rubber tree needs to make a fresh batch of latex, dandelions are ready for harvest every six months, and don’t require any pampering.

Sounds like a genius idea. Well done, Goodyear.

Testing is already at an advanced stage and if all goes well, Goodyear aims to use flower power and dandelion based rubber for all its tyre, well within the next decade.

goodyear.eu

Jessica Saunders is Director of Programmes at London College of Fashion, studying for a PhD in sustainable e-textile design.

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