Last month, Michelin announced plans to develop alternatives to the synthetic, oil-based materials used in their tires. The company launched the program “Bio Butterfly” to investigate the viability of organics like straw, beets, and wood to create their products.

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Michelin currently uses a mix of natural rubber and a synthetic compound called butadiene to make their tires. Butadiene is sourced from a petroleum byproduct, and the increased popularity of shale gas has made the material very expensive. The company expects a shortage by 2020 and is looking towards organic waste to produce a biological alternative. Biomass could potentially be fermented to create alcohol and further modified to form bio-butadiene.

Bio Butterfly is currently investigating the economic viability of transforming biological waste into tires. France’s Environment and Energy Management Agency has pledged $20 million to aid in the effort, and over the next eight years the project’s budget will total around $70 million. Other tire giants such as Bridgestone and chemical titans Eni and TPC are also hoping to develop a replacement for butadiene. Facing low supplies of oil, the market has forced the industry to become slightly more environmentally responsible.

+ Michelin

Via The Guardian

Images via Flickr users David Reber Hammer and jeff_golden