Natural rubber is a key component of all tires. But growing and cultivating rubber presents challenges. Specifically, Para rubber tree supply is geographically concentrated, subject to disease and climate change, and labor intensive to cultivate.
But alternatives are on the horizon. Guayule shows significant promise as a solution to diversify natural rubber supply across different plant species and into various climates.
Guayule is an evergreen shrub in the aster family. The highly drought-tolerant plant is native to the Chihuahuan Desert in northern Mexico and the southwest U.S. It accumulates rubber in the bark layer as a stress response to cold, almost identical to natural rubber harvested from Para rubber tree. Importantly, guayule does not compete with food crops and is suitable to mechanization. Planting more guayule also could expand green land that contributes to increased CO₂ absorption.
To put guayule into practical use, the Group has been investing in a research and development effort to focus on guayule since 2012 and has accumulated technologies and knowledge related to agriculture, processing and use in tires, including the development of tires with 100% of its natural rubber-containing components derived from guayule and large-scale propagation through open innovation as the Group strives to achieve its commitment for "Ecology: Committed to advancing sustainable tire technologies and solutions that preserve the environment for future generations" stated in the “Bridgestone E8 commitment.”
Bridgestone Americas (BSAM) plans to invest an additional 42 million USD to establish commercial guayule operations, with additional investment and expansion planned toward 2030. BSAM plans to collaborate and partner with local U.S. farmers and Native American tribes to increase capacity through up to 25,000 additional acres of farmland for planting and harvesting guayule at scale.
BSAM is also expanding the number of local farmers it works with in Central Arizona and is targeting 350 new acres of guayule to be planted in 2023. These farmers have been working to convert their farmland to harvest guayule, which serves as an alternative to previously failing crops due to growing water shortages. This initiative is a direct result of BSAM’s agreement with the Environmental Defense Fund, an NGO actively involved in water shortage solutions for the Colorado River, which is used for irrigation in this area. The Group will continue driving this initiative with the aim of achieving practical use of guayule by 2026, and its full-scale production and commercialization by 2030.