Bridgestone Increases Investment In Guayule for Natural Rubber Materials

Natural Rubber Guayule

(Credit: Bridgestone)

by | Aug 29, 2022

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Bridgestone plans to significantly add to its investment in a desert plant as a source of natural rubber while the company increases its focus on making all-sustainable tires in a drive to ensure a sustainable supply of materials.

Bridgestone, which has been researching and farming the shrub called guayule since 2012, will put another $42 million toward establishing commercial operations of the plant by 2030. The company previously invested more than $100 million in commercialization efforts of guayule and has a research center in Mesa, Arizona, and a 281-acre farm in Eloy, Arizona.

With the new investment, Bridgestone plans to partner with local farmers in the United States and Native American tribes to increase the capacity of farmland for the crop’s production by 25,000 acres. Bridgestone says it is targeting 350 new acres of guayule to be planted in central Arizona this year.

Guayule is a heat tolerant, woody shrub that thrives in desert settings, especially in the desert southwest of the United States. It can be farmed with row-crop equipment and requires as little as half the water to grow existing crops farmed in the region such as cotton and alfalfa.

The plant contains latex that can be used for rubber production. The latex extraction process is “green,” according to the US Department of Agriculture, because it uses water instead of harsh solvents. Guayule can be harvested in as little as two years after planting and is also being studied as a source for biofuels. It has been used for other rubber products such as gloves and medical equipment.

Bridgestone has a goal to use 100% sustainable materials by 2050 and produced its first tire made from guayule’s natural rubber in 2015. It also has expanded its guayule molecular breeding program, and the company’s guayule efforts have also been helped by grants from the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Energy.

Bridgestone introduced race tires made with guayule-derived natural rubber in the sidewall at the Indy 500 Pit Stop Challenge in May. The tires made their competition debut at the Big Machine Music City Grand Prix in Nashville on Aug. 7, 2022. The company says using the materials in race tires demonstrates safety and performance, considering the high-stress environment with speeds up to 200 miles per hour.

The company also recently announced plans to expand its Tennessee production plant to make more sustainable truck and bus tires. Additionally, the company is developing a silicone-based tire sealant and is working on a recycling platform.

Bridgestone isn’t alone in using natural materials for sustainable tire production. Earlier this year Goodyear said it was making military aircraft tires from rubber produced by dandelions, and that company also produced bus tires with soybean oil.

 

 

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