How car tires threaten the rainforest

How car tires threaten the rainforest

Rainforests are destroyed for our car tires. Manufacturers need rubber. More and more plantations are being created and untouched forests have to give way. There are alternatives.

70 percent of the global rubber harvest goes to the tire industry. But the industry is under pressure: it should make its supply chains transparent. The journey almost always begins in Asia.

No car tire manufacturer reveals the mixture of their products. They should be easy to run, have little rolling resistance, have good grip and last as long as possible. 1,5 billion car tires are sold worldwide every year by around 3000 producers, including the industry giants Bridgestone, Goodyear, Pirelli, Michelin and Continental.

Opaque supply chains

At the end of 2022, alarm bells rang in the industry. The European Union wants to require proof of the entire supply chain: Soon, no tire produced in this country or imported into Europe will be allowed to contain natural rubber that was cut down in the rainforest.

This certification poses a problem for producers - because the supply chains from rubber farmers through various intermediaries to Europe have so far been largely non-transparent. Therefore, companies are looking for alternatives.

Tire industry is looking for alternatives

Pirelli works with sustainable producers in Thailand. Michelin is trying to use high-tech to increase the lifespan of tires and Continental is working with the Fraunhofer Institute to research a replacement raw material: Russian dandelion. Grown on a large scale in Europe, it is intended to help replace natural rubber. In addition, discarded old tires, retreaded and processed, could be put back on the market - instead of in the trash.

Real change of heart or just greenwashing? MAKRO follows the intricate supply chains of tire manufacturers all the way to Southeast Asia and investigates the extent to which the tire industry's efforts to produce “clean” rubber have substance.

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