Environment | Value natural resources
Action3: Expand and diversify renewable resources Value natural resources

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Our approach

Merely reducing the raw material consumption (Action 1) and using recycled resources (Action 2) will not be enough to ensure a reliable supply of products and services needed to meet the continuously increasing global demand. By further expanding and diversifying the renewable resources it uses to make its products (Action 3), the Bridgestone Group can help build a truly sustainable society.

The approach to using sustainable materials is based on the assumption of striking a balance with the Earth’s resource capacity, and the notion that simply switching from non-renewable materials to plant-derived renewable resources is not enough. Taking natural rubber as an example, the Group is working to diversify its renewable material resources by developing guayule and other new natural rubber sources, while working on improving the productivity of cultivated rubber trees, which is currently the primary source of natural rubber used for tires.

By helping boost the productivity of small farms (see Enhancing contribution (Procurement) for details), as well as by both improving productivity and diversifying its current supply sources through innovative technological development, the Group is working to ensure the future sustainability of its sources.

Our approach

Technologies to expand renewable resource use

Natural rubber accounts for a large proportion of the tire's main raw materials. Currently, almost all of the rubber used in industries is produced from natural rubber tree called Hevea brasiliensis. The cultivation areas of natural rubber trees are limited to areas around the equator, and Southeast Asia accounts for 93 percent of the world’s natural rubber supply. For protecting tropical forests and reducing disease risk, the Group needs to increase the productivity of natural rubber trees and to research alternative plants that can be grown in wider areas.

The Bridgestone Group has succeeded in producing natural rubber from guayule on a commercial scale and conducting research to continue improvement.

Guayule, a new natural rubber source

Guayule

Guayule

Bridgestone Biorubber Process Research Center

Bridgestone Biorubber Process Research Center

Through partnerships, Bridgestone is conducting various research projects aimed at developing practical applications of guayule, a shrub native to arid regions spanning the southwestern United States to northern Mexico.

Guayule is a promising new source of natural rubber, almost identical to natural rubber harvested from Hevea rubber trees in Southeast Asia, making it a valuable source for tire-grade rubber in commercial applications. Guayule is a drought and heat tolerant crop native to desert climates of Mexico and some areas of the U.S.

In 2017, Bridgestone Americas (BSAM) began collaborating with Versalis S.p.A. of Italy to make full use of the latest genetic technologies to develop highly productive varieties of guayule. Our co-development agreement leverages Bridgestone’s leadership position in guayule agronomy, agricultural biotechnology, manufacturing production technologies with Versalis’ strength in process engineering and market development for renewable materials.

BSAM has also been engaged in a four-year collaboration with genomic big data solutions company NRGene to improve guayule varieties for commercialization since 2017. BSAM announced the results of this collaborative project in January 2021. They were able to fully sequence and assemble a guayule genome, making it possible to identify genes for important traits. Bridgestone developed mapping populations that allowed NRGene to construct a genetic and physical map by successfully identifying the correct order of DNA fragments. The joint work also successfully combined multiple guayule genomes to construct pseudochromosomes, paving the way towards selecting genes from inherent genetic diversity to breed highly productive varieties of guayule. (For more information, see news release)

Furthermore, Bridgestone Corporation is developing a new technological innovation to increase the productivity of guayule farms through a joint project with Kirin Holdings. Combining the world-class biotechnologies of Kirin Holdings and the guayule cultivation expertise of Bridgestone, the project aims to deliver large-scale propagation of guayule plants from high-quality seeds. Bridgestone will field test the new technology on guayule seedlings grown at its 287-acre Agro Operations Research Farm in Eloy, Arizona. The new technology may also be used to support the guayule breeding process to more rapidly increase a desired genotype for testing and production. (For more information, see news release)

BSAM's guayule research also includes the following initiatives:

• In 2017, Bridgestone became the industry partner in a United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), Agriculture Food Research Initiate (AFRI) sponsored grant “The Sustainable Bioeconomy for Arid Regions (SBAR)”. The other partners include, The University of Arizona, New Mexico State University, USDA-ARS, Colorado State University. It is a 15 million USD grant over 5 years. The company is participating in two irrigation studies designed to examine the effect of long periods of drought stress on rubber content and yields. Other important studies are also included in this grant.

• BSAM signed an agreement with Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), an NGO actively involved in water shortage solutions for the Colorado River, which is used for irrigation in Central Arizona, to jointly grow guayule on farmers’ fields (BSAM splits the cost and uses the shrub for processing). Guayule is considered as a low water use crop that can replace high water use crops currently grown in the region.

• BSAM is engaged in talks with Native American tribes to grow guayule on their lands. Even though the tribes have higher water allotments, they have expressed interest in growing guayule as a low water use crop.

Aiming for commercial applications by the 2020s, the Bridgestone Group will continue to improve guayule productivity through sustainable methods, establish new production processes, improve logistics, and promote other initiatives.

Improving productivity of rubber trees

The Group is working on preventing a productivity decline in rubber trees by developing a rubber tree disease diagnostic technology. It also offers technical support to small-scale rubber tree farms to boost their productivity.

For more information, see “Enhancing contribution (Procurement).”

Toward commercialization of sustainable tires

Conceptual tire made of 100% sustainable materials

Development of Concept Tire of 100% Sustainable Materials

Bridgestone is diversifying the regions where it produces natural rubber while also expanding the range of renewable resources of reinforced plant fibers it uses for securing raw materials. Synthetic rubber and carbon black, which are made from finite resources, are instead synthesized from renewable resources. The Company developed a conceptual tire made from these sustainable raw materials.

Primary constituent materials of the concept tire with 100% sustainable materials

Tires made of 100% natural rubber from guayule

Tires made of 100% natural rubber from guayule

In 2015, the Bridgestone Group made significant strides toward the Group’s goal of using 100% sustainable materials with the successful creation of the first tire using natural rubber derived only from guayule. From the cultivation of guayule to the extraction and purification of its natural rubber, it created this tire entirely by applying Group technologies in natural rubber assessment, tire manufacturing, evaluation and others.

Relevant information

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