Tires are essential to road and surface mobility, providing the moving surface of our many transport vehicles and the only contact point with the ground. Simple in appearance, tires are in fact very sophisticated products. A typical tire includes dozens of different components, using more than one hundred primary raw materials, which must be precisely assembled and processed to achieve the right balance between many competing factors of which grip, energy efficiency, handling, comfort and noise are but a few.
Established in January 2006, the goal of the Tire Industry Project (TIP), working under the umbrella of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD), is to identify and address the potential health and environmental impacts of materials associated with tire making and use. This project is chaired by the three largest tire manufacturers – Bridgestone (Japan), Goodyear (US) and Michelin (France) – and includes a total of eleven companies representing approximately 70% of the world's tire manufacturing capacity.
Since 2006, the Tire Industry Project (TIP) has initiated work in the following areas:
The evaluation of chemicals commonly used in tire making for any potential health and/or environmental impacts;
The properties, fate and impacts of tire and road wear particles generated during normal tire use and wear;
The management of tires at the end of their useful lives (end-of-life tires, or ELTs);
The safe development and use of nanomaterials in the tire industry.
The initial research program focused on the first two of these topics. Scoping work conducted in 2006 examined the availability and quality of existing data on these topics, identified knowledge gaps, and developed a comprehensive plan to fill those gaps in succeeding years. The State of Knowledge (2008) report outlines the literature research undertaken, which covers over 2,800 articles.
Since completion of this scoping work, and based on high-level exposure assessments of tire materials by TIP member companies, after some preliminary work, it has been concluded that the evaluation of chemicals used in tire making is best further conducted under the EU REACH program. All TIP member companies are fully engaged in this program.
The assessment of tire and road wear particles has received less attention than the review of chemical constituents – these particles are not simply rubber pieces from the tire, but rather an agglomeration of material from the tire along with material from the road. To address this gap, the TIP launched a major research program to collect TRWP, conduct tests on the fate and impacts of TRWP as generated during normal tire use, and analyze human and ecological risk. This work, which continues to be the major focus of the TIP research program, is expected to continue until the end of 2012.
In 2008, the CEOs of the TIP member companies mandated a work program focusing on 'scrap' or End of Life Tires. Initially, this work program focused on addressing the need for more information on ELTs and how they are managed. More recent work has focused on bringing together experiences of different ELT management systems from around the world in order to promote best practice.
Most recently, the TIP member companies have commenced a research program on the responsible use of nanomaterials in the tire industry. The TIP has recently established a working group looking at nanomaterials to develop a clear understanding, and to promote safe practice, both now and in the future. The work planned in the near term on this topic includes a literature review of nanomaterial use in the tire industry, a stakeholder mapping exercise, and development of good practice guidelines on nanomaterial use, to be shared publically when complete.
A small, independent assurance group oversees the project's focus and processes to ensure a balanced approach and act as a referee in case of disagreements. Members are drawn from a range of geographic regions and scientific specialties:
Dr. Maria Blettner, Institute of Medical Biometry, Epidemiology and Informatics (IMBEI), Johannes Gutenberg-University, Germany
Dr. Emeric Fréjafon, INERIS (French Institute of Industrial Environment and Risks), France
Dr. Lailai Li, World Resources Institute, China
Dr. John Spengler, Harvard School of Public Health, USA
Dr. Taketoshi Taniguchi, Todai Policy Alternatives Research Institute, The University of Tokyo, Japan