Forest fires have been very much in the news over the last year or so, but how about forest tyres? Believe it or not, such a thing actually exists. Pirelli has become the first tyre company in the world to produce tyres that are certified by the Forest Stewardship Council: an organisation that promotes environmentally appropriate management of the world’s forests.
So, what’s that got to do with tyres? Quite a lot, as it turns out. Tyres are made from natural rubber, which grows on trees: in the forests of Southern America and Asia in particular. Problem is, with the demand for natural rubber growing, swathes of these forests are now being hacked down as growers harvest all the natural rubber that’s there: another example of natural resources being greedily plundered in a way that’s ultimately unsustainable.
All this, of course, leads to climate change: an inconvenient truth these days, whatever your perspective is on environmental matters. To avoid the most serious impacts of global warming, carbon emissions need to reduce by 45% by 2030. Instead, these emissions are set to rise by 16%. Forests play a vital part, as an acre of forest can absorb roughly twice the CO2 produced by your average car’s annual mileage.
The new FSC-certified tyres, which will initially be fitted to the latest BMW X5 Plug-In Hybrid, helps put a stop to this trend that by only using rubber that comes from plantations managed in a sustainable way. That means not only limiting the number of trees that are harvested, but also managing the forest in such a way as to provide a sustainable livelihood for the rubber-growers working there. A bit like fair trade coffee, which is a well-known concept these days, apart from for tyres…
It’s low-volume production for now, because of course rubber that’s certified in this way costs more to produce and also to police – n other words, to make sure that it genuinely happens in the way that it claims to. But as time goes on, expect this to eventually become an industry norm: in much the same way that biofuel is now found more or less everywhere.
So, what we’re seeing might just be the beginning of a quiet revolution. And coupled with initiatives such as e-fuel (Porsche is working on a synthetic fuel that has all the properties of normal petrol, but with zero emissions) it might just mean that we don’t have to change the way we drive too much in order to save the planet. And that would be rather perfect, wouldn’t it?
Anthony Peacock works as a journalist and is the owner of an international communications agency, all of which has helped take him to more than 80 countries across the world.
Photographs courtesy of Pirelli/Getty Images