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

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Our approach

One natural resource obviously critical to the Bridgestone Group, and one the world recognizes as potentially stressed in future years, is natural rubber. The Group continues to actively participate in addressing this challenge in a number of ways.

Merely reducing the use of raw materials (Action 1) and promoting the use of recycled resources (Action 2) will not be enough to ensure a reliable supply of the products and services needed to meet continuously increasing global demand. In addition to that, by expanding and diversifying the renewable resources (Action 3) we use to make our products, we can contribute to building a truly sustainable society.

Our approach to sustainable materials, or materials that help strike a balance with the earth’s resource capacity, is based on the notion that it is not enough merely to switch from non-renewable materials to plant-derived renewable resources, but to promote Action 1, 2 and 3.

Taking the renewable material of natural rubber as an example, we are working to diversify raw material supply sources, such as developing guayule and other new natural rubber resources, while promoting improved productivity of the rubber trees, which is currently the primary source for the natural rubber used for tires. By both diversifying and improving our current supply sources, we are ensuring our sources will be more sustainable in the future.

Conceptual tire of 100% sustainable materials

Development of Concept Tire of 100% Sustainable Materials

Bridgestone is diversifying the regions where it produces natural rubber and also expanding the range of reinforced plant fibers it uses for securing renewable resources used in raw materials. Synthetic rubber and carbon black generally made from finite resources were instead synthesized from renewable materials. We developed a conceptual tire from these sustainable raw materials.

Guayule, a new natural rubber resource

Guayule

Bridgestone is promoting various research projects utilizing partnerships aimed at practical applications for guayule, a shrub that can be cultivated on land native to the arid region spanning the southwestern United States to northern Mexico.

Guayule shows promise as a new supply source for natural rubber, one of the main raw materials in tires. Bridgestone Americas Tire Operations (BATO) holds 114 hectares (280 acres) of farmland in Eloy, Arizona, USA. On that land, a research farm for guayule cultivation was established and put into operation in September 2013. In addition, Biorubber Process Research Center opened in Mesa, Arizona, in September 2014.

In December 2017, Bridgestone Americas (BSAM) collaborated with Versalis S.p.A. of Italy, making full use of the latest genetic technologies to develop highly productive varieties of guayule. BSAM is also engaged in improving guayule varieties utilizing technologies from NRgene Ltd., a genome big data solutions company.

BSAM's guayule research also includes the following initiatives:

•Invited irrigation engineer researchers from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) who specialize in irrigation efficiency and water measurements to our farm in 2017 for ideas on improvement.

•Partnered with Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), an NGO who is actively involved in solutions for shortages of the Colorado River water used in Central Arizona for irrigation. We have signed an agreement to jointly grow guayule on farmers’ fields (split the cost and we get the shrub for processing). They view guayule as a low water use crop that would replace other high water use crops currently grown in this area. Partnering with us helps them better understand the inputs to build their own cost model.

•We are engaged in talks with Native American Tribes to grow on their lands. Even though Tribes have higher water allotments, they are also interested in growing guayule as a low water use crop.

•In recognition of its many years of research into these and other areas, in February 2018, BSAM was selected by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) of USDA to receive support for the research and development of U.S. natural rubber resources derived from guayule.

Aiming for practical applications in the 2020s, it will continue to strengthen various factors going forward, including improving guayule productivity through sustainable methods, establishing production processes and improving logistics.

Tires made of 100% natural rubber from guayule

In 2015, we made significant strides toward the Bridgestone Group’s goal of using 100% sustainable materials with the successful creation of the first tire to use natural rubber derived only from guayule. From the cultivation of the guayule to the extraction and purification of its natural rubber, we created this tire through the application of the Group technologies in natural rubber assessment, tire manufacturing and evaluation and all other processes.

Improving productivity of rubber trees

We are working on preventing a decline in productivity of rubber trees by developing a disease diagnosis technology for the trees. We are also offering technical support to increase productivity of small-scale rubber tree farms.

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