Montreal — Group Michelin has verified that recycled styrene monomer from Canadian recycling startup Pyrowave Inc. is 99.8% pure and can now be integrated into industrial elastomer batches in line with the French tire maker's goal of having a fully sustainable tire on the market by 2050.
Montreal-based Pyrowave said recently it had shipped its first batch of recycled styrene, derived from polystyrene waste, to Michelin for the production of environmentally friendly tires.
Furthermore, Pyrowave added, the finished product will incorporate "fully traceable and segregated recycled styrene," where all the styrene will be physically present in the product rather than a credit-based content.
"Following years of testing, Michelin will be in a position to manufacture batches of industrial styrene-butadiene rubber (SBR) products with Pyrowave recycled styrene," it said.
Pyrowave said a container with 3 metric tons of recycled styrene had left Montreal for an undisclosed Michelin plant in France. The amount, according to Pyrowave, would translate into enough SBR to produce over 1,000 passenger tires.
Michelin operates captive synthetic rubber plants in Bassens, France, and Louisville, Ky., along with a joint-venture SBR plant in Indonesia.
"This achievement confirms once and for all that we can implement a 100% traceable and controlled supply chain in polystyrene recycling," Pyrowave CEO Jocelyn Doucet said.
"Products can now be made entirely from recycled material, without dilution or degradation," he added.
Pyrowave has developed a microwave technology to return waste polystyrene plastics to their original form — styrene monomers, which Pyrowave claims is "identical to virgin material," but with a 45 percent reduced carbon footprint.
Michelin and Pyrowave have been collaborating since 2020 to accelerate time-to-market for the Montreal-based company's waste recovery technology.
In a joint development agreement in November 2020, the two sides said they aimed to certify and commercially roll out the technology in global markets, with ultimately an investment of over $20 million.
In April 2021, Michelin awarded a front-end engineering design (FEED) contract to McDermott International Ltd. covering a processing facility for Pyrowave.
Combining Pyrowaves platform with Michelin's knowhow will help drive development of an industrial demonstrator, funded and operated by Michelin, by 2023, the companies said.
"The Pyrowave approach is designed to electrify processes using microwaves, making it possible to keep resources in the production loop of new goods while also reducing the carbon footprint," according to Christophe Durand, sustainable materials development manager at Michelin, who called the Pyrowave technology "ahead of its time."
The Pyrowave technology will contribute to Michelin's goal of an all-sustainable tire by 2050, Durand said, which will incorporate 100 percent recycled or renewable bio-sourced materials while contributing to the company's carbon-neutrality roadmap.
"We are not simply catching up with tomorrow, we are aiming for the day after," he added.