Continental has found a use case in PET Bottles. Sumesh Soman looks at the commercialisation of recycled polyester tyres.

Polyester is in vogue! Tyre manufacturer Continental realised it and was quick to tap the pool of recycled PET bottles or PolyEthylene Terephthalate commonly used for packaging 70 per cent of the soft drinks. Hailed as light, durable, safe and with a smaller carbon footprint compared to alternatives, it’s the most recyclable plastic globally. Using PET bottles in production makes the manufacturer the first to make use of recycled polyester yarn in a new process for volume production. The new high-performance material will be initially used in selected sizes for Continental’s PremiumContact 6 and EcoContact 6 summer tyres, and in the AllSeasonContact tyre. In effect, the company claims to have replaced the conventional polyester in the carcass of the selected tyres. A set of standard passenger car tyres uses the material from around 40 recycled PET bottles.

In September 2021, Continental unveiled the in-house Contyre.Tex technology for the first time. It uses polyester yarn obtained from used PET bottles without any intermediate chemical steps. This is said to make the technology much more efficient than other standard methods for processing PET bottles into high-performance polyester yarns. The bottles used for the technology come exclusively from regions without a closed recycling loop. As part of a special recycling process, the bottles are sorted and mechanically cleaned, after the caps are removed. After mechanical shredding, the PET is further processed into granulate and finally spun polyester yarn.

According to Ferdinand Hoyos, Head at Continental Tyre Replacement Business in Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA), the tyres are manufactured using only high performance materials. “We only use high-performance materials in our premium tyre range. From now on, these will include polyester yarn from PET bottles, made in a particularly efficient recycling process,” he assures. Adding that the company brought its innovative Contyre.Tex technology to the production stage in just eight months, he states, the company is constantly looking at expanding the share of renewable and recycled materials in its tyres. By 2050 at the latest, we want to use only sustainable materials in our tyre production, he expresses. All tyres with Contyre.Tex technology produced in the upcoming market launch phase come from the Continental tyre plant in Lousado, Portugal. Tyres with Contyre.Tex technology have a special logo on the sidewall with the marking ‘Contains Recycled Material’.

Notably, Polyester yarn made from PET has long been used as a material in passenger and light truck tyre assembly. The textile cords absorb the forces of the tyre’s internal pressure and remain dimensionally stable even under high loads and temperatures. To make tyres even more energy-efficient and eco-friendly across life cycle stages of manufacturing, use and recyclability, Continental continues its intensive research for alternative materials. As a testimony, the premium tyre manufacturer debuted the Conti GreenConcept last year (September 2021) known to make use of polyester from recycled plastic bottles in the carcass at IAA Mobility. For the second season of the all-electric Extreme E racing series held in February 2022, Continental has developed the Contyre.Tex. The support vehicles for this year’s Tour de France will also ply Contyre.Tex tyres. Continental is initially offering the PremiumContact 6, the EcoContact 6 and the AllSeasonContact with Contyre.Tex technology in five sizes each.


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