Innovative Bridgestone Guayule project could be sustainable breakthrough for rubber industry

Bridgestone has unveiled plans for an extensive research project aimed at developing a renewable, sustainable alternative to the natural rubber tree currently used by all tyre and rubber manufacturers.

The project is dedicated developing Guayule (pronounced Why-u-lee) as a commercially viable, renewable source of high-quality natural rubber and as an alternative to the Hevea tree.

Guayule is a perennial shrub native to the southwestern United States and northern Mexico. This plant produces natural rubber in its bark and roots. Natural rubber from Guayule has almost identical qualities compared to natural rubber harvested from Hevea trees, which is currently the primary source for the natural rubber used in tyres.

Bridgestone is currently looking for land to establish a pilot farm and construct the rubber process research centre in the southwestern United States. Research and development will be conducted by a dedicated research team of agricultural scientists, engineers and process technicians focused on optimising the agronomic and processing technologies necessary to produce world-class, tyre-grade rubber in adequate quantities appropriate for manufacturing.

The company expects to finalize a location, establish the research farm and begin construction on the process research later this year, with a view to be fully operational by 2014. Trial rubber production should start in 2015.

“This project demonstrates our commitment to environmental stewardship and sustainability through its potential to develop a renewable resource for natural rubber that can be grown, harvested and processed closer to market,” said Bill Niaura, Director of New Business Development for Bridgestone Americas.

The Bridgestone Group will use knowledge and experience gained through its participation in a Guayule research project with the U.S. Department of Agriculture from 1988 to 1991, which focused on extracting rubber for tyres from the biomass of Guayule. The successful commercial development of Guayule will diversify the source of natural rubber for the tire and rubber industry and reduce today’s heavy reliance on “Hevea Brasiliensis,” which has a limited growing area restricted to tropical climates close to the equator. By contrast, Guayule is native to desert climates with a huge potential growing area.

About Bridgestone

The largest manufacturer of tyres and rubber products worldwide, Bridgestone leads the way in quality, technologically innovative goods and services and is a trusted brand that goes from strength to strength.

Established in 1931 in the small town of Kurume, Japan on the island of Kyushu by its founder Shojiro Ishibashi, today it is a multi billion pound business with 183 manufacturing plants, in 26 countries and a presence in over 150 markets worldwide.

Always seeking to be the best at what it does, Bridgestone is focused on its mission of “serving society with superior quality” through an enviable range of products that satisfy the needs of the customer and society as a whole.

About Bridgestone Corporation:

Bridgestone Corporation (BSJ), headquartered in Tokyo, is the world’s largest tire and rubber company. In addition to tires for use in a wide variety of applications, it also manufactures a broad range of diversified products, which include industrial rubber and chemical products and sporting goods. Its products are sold in over 150 nations and territories around the world.

About Bridgestone Americas Tyre Operations:

Nashville, Tenn.-based Bridgestone Americas Tire Operations (BATO) is a business unit of Bridgestone Americas, Inc., whose parent company, Bridgestone Corporation, is the world's largest tire and rubber company. Reporting into the BATO business unit are the company's Latin American tire operations; the U.S. and Canadian consumer tire businesses; the U.S. and Canadian commercial tire businesses; and Bridgestone Retail Operations, LLC, which operates the largest network of company-owned automotive service providers in the world. BATO develops, manufactures and markets Bridgestone, Firestone and associate brand tires. The business unit is focused on retail, wholesale and original equipment markets, supplying passenger, light truck, commercial vehicle, off road, motorcycle, agricultural and other tires, as well as retreads, to its customers in the Americas.

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