Hankook kicks off tire circularity program

Tire manufacturer Hankook Tire & Technology hosted the official kick-off meeting for the ’Tire-to-Tire Circular Economy Model’ consortium on November 1 in Daejeon, South Korea.

Held at the Hankook Technodome, the event marked the start of the consortium’s efforts to create the business model for the circular economy of end-of-life tires in Korea. 

Initiated by Hankook Tire, the ‘Tire-to-Tire Circular Economy Model’ project aims to promote a circular economy by designing upcycling processes to turn end-of-life tires into new tires. This project signifies an industry commitment to meeting global demands for carbon neutrality and using more sustainable materials in the manufacturing process.  

Hankook Tire will collaborate with 11 other companies and institutes on this project with the goal of improving the industry’s shift toward sustainability, including Korea Environmental Industry & Technology Institute, LD Carbon, Korea Institute of Footwear & Leather Technology, HD Hyundai Oilbank, HD Hyundai Chemical, HD Hyundai OCI, SK Incheon Petrochem, SK Geo Centric, LG Chem, Kumho Petrochemical and OCI.  

The group will develop technological solutions that promote a circular economy of end-of-life tires. The focus will be on identifying and producing sustainable raw materials that can be used in tire manufacturing, such as sustainable carbon black and synthetic rubber as well as recovered carbon.

The group will showcase the technical, economic, and environmental feasibility of a recycling process for end-of-life tires in Korea, using materials sourced from high-quality recovered carbon and pyrolysis oil from end-of-life tires. These efforts will be strengthened by the establishment of a stable supply chain for sustainable raw materials obtained from upcycling technology. 

The consortium aims to extend material recovery rates for end-of-life tires even further by building a system to steer access to high-quality, sustainable raw materials. Creating that system will require analysis, research, and development of the entire tire product cycle, including tire waste collection and sorting, tire waste pyrolysis, refining the resultant pyrolysis oil, manufacturing sustainable raw materials and using them to produce tires, and smarter disposal systems.   

“It is an honour to host such a meaningful consortium. Our efforts to establishing this model for circular economy of end-of-life tires, will play a vital role in strengthening a more sustainable value chain for the industry, helping replace conventional petrochemical-based raw materials with high-quality secondary raw material,” said Bonhee Ku, chief technology officer of Hankook Tire & Technology. T

It will also reduce reliance on petro-chemical resources, helping Korea reach its CO2 emission reduction goals for the industrial sector (2030 National Determined Contribution, NDC). The program is also expected to solidify industrial competitiveness by elevating low-value-added sectors to high-value-added industries.  

Circular economy models are becoming an important system in making the global tire industry more sustainable and reducing environmental risks. In Europe, the ‘BlackCycle’ project has been operational since 2020 across five countries including, France, Spain, Germany, Greece, and Switzerland, engaging 13 organizations, including both public and private partners.  

Global programs launched by governments and private companies also helped support this shift. For example, Horizon 2020, a scientific research program run by the European Union, has contributed EUR 12 million to the development of a circular economy model for waste tires in Europe. This model involves the development of technologies and processes aimed at enhancing waste tire recycling and reducing carbon dioxide emissions. It is committed to producing sustainable raw materials to be used in the manufacture of tires and establishing a circular economy throughout every phase of the tire life cycle.