The Environment

Materials

KPI

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Item FY 2019 results FY 2020 results
Total volume of raw materials used (Consolidated) 812,000 tons (Consolidated) 700,000 tons
Ratio of rubber recycling (Consolidated) 2.4% (Consolidated) 2.4%

Responsible Departments

Technology and design departments
  • Supervised by the 3Rs Committee

Stance and Target

Why is “Materials” a critical issue to be addressed?
Explanation of the reason and background

Yokohama Rubber Group sells products using chemicals and natural capital such as natural rubber and water. These raw materials are made from the Earth’s natural resources, and they are by no means infinite. Accordingly, we view using minimal raw materials, promoting the sales of recycled products (such as retread tires), and the delivery of products that will please customers and society using recycled raw materials (such as regenerated rubber powder) to be important issues.

Policies and stance relating to raw materials

The Yokohama Rubber Group has presented its environmental philosophy in the Yokohama Rubber Basic Environmental Policy and Yokohama Rubber Environmental Policy, and will work to develop and procure raw materials that lead to minimizing of the burden on the environment, and to minimize usage volumes of raw materials from natural resources in accordance with the Yokohama Rubber Group Action Guidelines.

Vision (attainment goal) / target

By reducing the amount of raw materials used, promoting the sales of retread tires, and working to expand use of recycled raw materials, we will establish a raw materials procurement system that can be used in a sustainable manner with a minimal impact on the environment and society throughout the entire life cycle. These activities will contribute to reducing CO2 emissions in Scope 3 Category 11 (product use stage) by fiscal 2050.

Measures for vision achievement

We will develop and use raw materials with a reduced burden on the environment and society through the following initiatives in order to achieve business continuity.
  1. We will review factors such as structural design and material rigidity to fulfill the required performance while achieving weight reductions.
  2. We will work to promote sales of retread tires.
  3. Furthermore, we will develop tires and belts with a high regenerated mixture ratio, and reusable products.

Review of FY 2020 Activities

Expand the use rate of rubber recycled materials

The Yokohama Rubber Group has been promoting the use of recycled materials from the perspective of the 3Rs for some time. Rubber recycled materials is the first and foremost raw material.
The usage of recycled rubber in the tire sector in 2020 amounted to about 7,000 tons worldwide, which means that the same amount of raw material (resources) was saved. Rubber recycled materials are made of polymers and degradation due to heat and other factors during the recycling process is inevitable. However, by reviewing the raw materials and processing conditions, we have succeeded in minimizing degradation compared to conventional products. In 2020, we have used this new rubber-recycled material. As a result, we are increasing the usage of recycled rubber while maintaining a balance between quality and environmental performance.
The percentage of raw materials (compounds) accounted for by rubber recycled materials was 2.42% for the entire group.
Regenerated rubber powder is a powdered material obtained from grinding waste tires, principally by using heat on the waste tires, and this recycled material contributes to major savings and recycling of resources. However, Yokohama Rubber established blending technologies that control physical degradation and commenced mass production of tires made from this regenerated rubber from February 2009. Over the past five years, the volume of regenerated rubber used by the Yokohama Rubber Tire Group has grown by around 3.0 times since 2008.

Usage ratio of regenerated rubber in Tire products*1

*1 Ratio of compound usage based on results of acceptance inspections in Japan

Development of the World's First New Technology to Produce Butadiene from Biomass

Our company has developed the world's first new technology capable of efficiently producing butadiene from biomass (biological resources) through joint research by Bio-monomer Production Laboratory, which has been established jointly with National Institute of Physical and Chemical Research (RIKEN), ZEON Corporation, and Yokohama Rubber. Butadiene is used as the primary raw material for the synthetic rubber in automotive tires. Butadiene is currently produced industrially as a byproduct of naphtha pyrolysis. By establishing butadiene production technology derived from non-fossil resources, we can reduce our dependence on petroleum and contribute to the reduction of carbon dioxide, which is a cause of global warming.
We will continue to actively engage in research on the use of carbon-neutral plant resources-derived biomass, and promote the development of original technologies to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Development of the World's First New Technology to Produce Butadiene from Bioethanol

We are also researching the use of metal oxide catalysts to produce butadiene from bioethanol obtained from plant resources, which can then be used to produce butadiene rubber. In 2019, we developed a catalyst system with the world's highest productivity for producing butadiene from bioethanol. In 2020, we installed a bench-scale synthesis system to increase the amount of this butadiene produced. The development of this technology was commissioned by New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO) under “Ultra-High-Throughput Design and Prototyping Technology for Ultra-Advanced Materials Development Project (U2M PJ) “ and is being conducted in collaboration with National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST) and Research Association of High-Throughput Design and Development for Advanced Functional Materials (ADMAT)The main focus of this project is to enhance the quality of material data to increase prediction the reliability of AI, which is achieved by the cutting-edge methodology development for computational simulations, high-throughput processing and advanced characterization as well as the combination between theory and experiment. On the basis of these, the cycle number and tact time will be reduced to one-twentieth as compared with present numbers. Butadiene rubber produced from bioethanol is a renewable raw material derived from plant resources and is expected to contribute greatly to the realization of carbon neutrality.

Development cycle of "computational science and technology", "process technology", and "advanced measurement technology" promoted by U2M PJ.

Butadiene rubber synthesized using butadiene produced by the newly developed technology

High-rigidity wind sealant

Our automotive glass sealant (wind sealant) has a positive reputation for its high durability, and we have developed high-rigidity wind sealant to improve the rigidity of car bodies. This not only improves safety, but also contributes to lighter car bodies through a decrease in the volume of sealant used.

Recycling activities in the MB business

As with last year, recycled rubber is mainly used in the manufacturing of rubber belts for use with railway track ballast; with this ratio being 2.7% in fiscal year 2020.
The resin mold material (thermoplastic resin) used in hose manufacturing can be crushed and melted down again after use; however, in the past the powder generated in the crushing process has normally been discarded as waste. By introducing a two-stage crushing process, the crushed particles can be kept at a larger size in the first stage, controlling the generation of powder.
The powder generated in the next stage of the crushing process can be collected and reused with the same level of traceability as the larger crushed particles.
As a result, the recycling rate is now over 90%, and the annual usage of resin mold material has been reduced by 3.6 tons in 2019 and by 4.8 tons in 2020.

Yokohama Rubber Nagano Plant received the JEMAI Chairman's Award for metal scrap briquetting

We received the Japanese Environmental Management Association for Industry (JEMAI) Chairman’s Award for metal scrap (machining chip) briquetting at the Resource Recycling Technologies and Systems Awards in 2018.
The Nagano Plant manufactures joint fittings for hoses and assembles hoses and fittings. It has developed an effective system to contribute to resource recycling, in which the metal scrap powder generated during the production of metal fittings that had been sold to an external metal scrap supplier is briquetted for steel raw materials (solidified into a specific shape by hardening the powder with high pressure) for direct sales to steel companies.

Issues and Future
Improvement Measures

While using raw materials in business activities is unavoidable, our final goal is a state which minimizes the use of the Earth’s resources.
A key issue is correctly assessing whether the use of reusable products and recycled materials is leading to a reduction in the use of the Earth’s resources and the environmental impact, and to deploy these assessments on a global level.