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Continental's sustainability journey

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In the next segment of Continental's columns with SHD, we turn to Innovation in Sustainability. The company talks through its history, and looks forward to the future.

150 years of experience and worldwide production capability make Continental a leading tyre manufacturer. Many ideas originating from Continental’s development division have and continue to revolutionise the tyre market today. Experts across the business work closely in the research and development, testing and production to make tyres of the future as energy efficient and eco-friendly as possible during the manufacturing, use, and recycling stages of its life cycle.

To understand where the tyre market is heading it’s important to first look back on some of the key milestones in the history of tyre production and we focus our attention here on the history of solid tyres.

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MicrosoftTeams-image (22).pngKey Milestones in Solid Tyre Development

The 100-year history of solid tyres began with the production of the first super elastic (SE) tyre in 1920 in Korbach, Germany, in a plant which was subsequently acquired by Continental in 1929. With the introduction of SE tyres for pneumatic rims, collectively referred to as ContiSuperElastic (CSE), a synonym for solid rubber tyres was born.

At the end of the 70s there was an industry need to prevent static charging from tyres, especially in hazardous environments, leading to the introduction of antistatic tyres. At the same time a clean compound, which leaves no floor markings was developed and ‘clean tyres’ or more widely referred to as ‘non-marking white tyres’ were subsequently introduced. Today these tyres are used across industries such as automotive, FMCG, electronics, solar, chemicals and pharmaceuticals.

The next revolutionary innovation was defined when Continental developed the Snap-in-Tyre (SIT) technology, officially registered on 21 July 1982. It facilitates rapid SE mounting with no loose rim parts. This patented solution saves time and money since mounting requires just one press. It has become a standard in the industry and is one of the most important and genius innovations that has shaped the successful path of the solid tyre industry today.

In 2005, the first self-mounting solid tyre, the CSEasy tyre, was introduced. The CSEasy ushered in a completely new age in mounting technology. The advantages are obvious: increased cost efficiency, enhanced safety through simplified procedures and huge time savings.

Delivering More Miles, More Efficiently

In 2018, Continental’s new solid tyre line, the Plus series, launched based on a specially developed compound technology that facilitates application on smooth warehouse floors as well as abrasive outdoor surfaces. The focus of this development was to achieve high mileage and excellent cut protection, whilst minimising rolling resistance. The latest range of Continental solid tyres offer superior mileage, are outstandingly robust and at the same time extremely energy efficient.

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Continuing the success story through sustainable action

Having looked back on some of the key solid tyre developments Continental has implemented over the last century, one of the key drivers for future advancements is enhancing the sustainable performance of its tyres. In 2020, Continental introduced “Vision 2030” with an aim to achieve 100 percent carbon-neutrality throughout its entire value chain by 2050. To arrive at a more energy-efficient and environmentally friendly tyre of the future, Continental invests in research and development of new technologies, alternative materials and environmentally compatible production processes. Today, Continental already consumes 55 percent less water and 17 percent less energy than the industry average per metric ton of tyres produced and by 2030, they aim is to save an additional 20 percent.

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Circular economy integral in Continental's sustainability strategy

The focus on greater sustainability embraces production processes at Continental. For instance, an innovative process has been introduced to return waste rubber to the production cycle, enabling rubber from end-of-life truck tyres to be re-utilised during retreading.

Over five years ago, Continental co-developed the ‘Hurricane Machine’ a system that offers a new approach to recycling the rubberised steel cord scrap that arises during the manufacturing process. The unit separates uncured rubber compound and steel cord by applying mechanical force allowing the rubber compound to be reused for tyre production, a process that is a world first for the tyre industry.

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Taraxagum: Russian dandelion as an alternative source of natural rubber

One of Continental's key concerns is to stop importing natural rubber exclusively from the tropics and to extract it closer to its tyre plants to prevent ongoing deforestation and reduce CO2 emissions caused by long transport routes. Continental is pioneering renewable resources such as Taraxagum, which uses Russian dandelions as an alternative source of natural rubber for industrial applications. Such a solution would significantly reduce the pressure on conventional rubber supplies.

COKOON: Environmentally friendly bonding system for textile reinforcements materials

Since 2019, Continental and Kordsa have together developed a new sustainable adhesive technology standard for bonding textile reinforcing materials with rubber compounds. Reinforcing materials of this kind are used in the tyre industry, as well as in the production of mechanical rubber goods like hoses and conveyor belts. The new technology enables the bonding activation of textile reinforcing materials without the use of resorcinol and formaldehyde.

Recycled PET bottles in tyre production

By 2022, Continental will enable the use of reprocessed polyester obtained from recycled plastic bottles, in its tyre production. The new sustainable polyester yarn will be obtained from polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottles through a mechanical process and will be used in the construction of the tyre carcass. This can completely replace conventional polyester.

How can you make your business more sustainable?

Many businesses today, like Continental, are actively assessing how they can harness sustainable, efficient, and cost-effective measures to respond to their business challenges, and the material handling sector is of course no different. When it comes to creating sustainable value, in this industry there are three key areas to consider.

Increasing energy efficiency

Adopting innovative, energy efficient tyres on your vehicles should be a key consideration for your business’s sustainability plan. Regular monitoring and examination of tyres, by inspecting the state of the tread, ensuring wheels are not misaligned, or tyres are not run under or over-inflated, are simple yet important actions to improve fleet performance, efficiency and safety.

Other things to consider could be prioritising energy efficiency in other parts of your operations, lighting, ventilation and heating systems, considering waste management and recycling alternatives and investing in reusable and recyclable packaging.  

Automation of solutions and processes

Sustainability benefits can also be achieved through the automation of processes and overall solutions as this not only improves accuracy and visibility but also creates less waste in terms of resources, time, and energy and importantly leads to greater customer satisfaction. 

Optimising site design

A well laid out site where space is fully maximised is crucial to optimise workflow through efficient material handling, personnel movements, handling of equipment etc.

As the industry continues to evolve, adopting some of these initiatives can increase the positive effect your business activities have on the environment

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