Bridgestone American Inc. has taken interest in guayule, a perennial shrub native to southwestern U.S. and northern Mexico. The tire manufacturer aims to incorporate the shrub as a replacement for rubber tree plant use.
Hevea brasiliensis, commonly known as the rubber tree plant, has been used in producing tires, garments, textile manufacturing and more. Tire manufacturing makes up almost 60% of the general percentage of natural rubber consumption.
Due to Bridgestone’s initiative in pursuing 100% sustainable materials for use in tire production, the company has chosen to advance the manufacturing process with the use of the guayule plant. The guayule plant is chemically identical with the hevea plant but requires an entirely different processing technique. It would take 5 years for a fully-grown hevea plant to initiate rubber production unlike the guayule plant which only takes about 2 years to begin rubber harvesting.
“It’s not a sustainable situation. With hevea production so geographically concentrated, there are a whole host of factors we can’t control. … All it takes is the wrong trans-Pacific flight and somebody walking in the wrong dirt on one end to be a disease vector,” stated Bill Niaura, director of Bridgestone’s new business development.
Bridgestone is set to establish its very own Rubber Process Research Center in Mesa, Arizona in response to their growing interest in cultivating guayule plants. Halting dependence on foreign natural rubber suppliers is included in Bridgestone’s plan as they move forward with guayule genetic fiddling experiments to increase rubber weight percentage. Bridgestone plans to encourage American farmers to start growing the guayule crop in multitudes as they seek to understand and initiate the production of tires made of the said plant in the early 2020s.
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