Bridgestone teammates work every day to bring superior products to market. Perhaps just as impressive as these revolutionary products are the cutting edge processes involved in their production. Over the past two decades, Bridgestone’s focus on innovation and consistent enhancement of manufacturing practices have yielded significant positive impact to the environment.
Recent technological innovations and implementations of hydrogen fuel cells, waste to energy, recycling, and retreading have occurred with little to no fanfare. Through these innovations and implementations, Bridgestone has quietly compiled an impressive list of global “firsts”:
1. World’s First two LEED certified tire plants
2. World’s First Superior Energy Performance (SEP) Mature Pathway ISO 50001 certification
3. World’s First Underwriters’ Laboratory Environment (ULE) 100% Zero Waste to Landfill certification
4. World’s First Fortune 500 company with “one for one” product capture and repurpose goal.
This post explores these “firsts” and how Bridgestone is reshaping how tires are made.
World’s First LEED Certified Tire Plants
According to the U.S. EPA, 36% of U.S. total energy use and 65% of electricity consumption come from buildings. Fortunately, there is a growing movement of environmentally-friendly building practices. The movement has been led by the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program. LEED, in short, provides proven measurement and scoring standard for reducing energy consumption, conserving water, improving indoor air quality, and building better buildings.
The objectives of Bridgestone’s environmental mission (to be in harmony with nature, to value natural resources, and to reduce CO2 emissions) are exemplified in the design and construction of its manufacturing sites. Bridgestone set an early example and pioneered the first two LEED-certified tire plants in the world. To become LEED certified, a building must obtain a certain number of points based on a variety of environmental construction and operation criteria.
The Warren County Plant (Tennessee)i earned LEED (Silver) in 2008, and the Aiken Plant (South Carolina) became LEED (Silver) certified in 2009.
The Warren County Plant’s history of environmental performance moving towards excellence is long and extensive. For years the plant pioneered conservation improvements including the use of clean energy hydrogen fuel cells in automated-guided vehicles in the plant. Energy-efficient lighting, hi-tech fans, and resource-conserving fixtures in restrooms are also part of the Warren County plant’s environmental conservation efforts. The Warren County facility has significantly reduced energy consumption and has reduced water consumption in the plant by more than 8 million gallons a year. The feat is even more impressive given that the Warren County Plant is an existing building built 19 years before the LEED certification.
The Aiken facility followed suit soon after with its own impressive environmental achievements for LEED credits. The plant reduced emissions from equipment by converting to bio-fuels, replacing paper towel dispensers with air hand dryers, installing waterless urinals, upgrading to more energy-efficient light bulbs, installing negative pressure smoking hoods and establishing high-priority parking zones for carpoolers and hybrid vehicles. The 37 new waterless urinals and sensor faucets will cut annual water consumption by nearly 1.5M gallons — enough water to supply seven houses for one year. The facility’s new energy-efficient light bulbs increase light levels, lower mercury levels and have almost double the lifespan of previous bulbs.
In addition to the manufacturing sites, our Firestone Complete Auto Care retail store in Smyrna, Tennessee, achieved LEED (Gold) certification in 2009.
Bridgestone’s early adoption of LEED has strengthened the bottom line and is a great symbol for our environmental commitment.
World’s First Superior Energy Performance (SEP) Mature Pathway ISO 50001 Certification
In 2012, Bridgestone set a global first by achieving Superior Energy Performance (SEP) Mature Pathway ISO 50001 at our Wilson County Manufacturing Plant (North Carolina). The SEP Mature Energy Pathway encourages companies to implement more than 50 best energy practices and requires a 15 percent reduction in energy use over the previous 10 years to receive recognition.
SEP is sponsored by the U.S. Council for Energy-Efficient Manufacturing and encourages energy reduction above and beyond the ISO 50001 requirements. Between the years of 2001 and 2011, the Wilson County Plant has made verifiable energy savings of 16.8 percent. To create these savings, plant teammates and leadership again turned to innovation and dedication to performance. Some of the savings came from switching the primary fuel source to natural gas in its boilers, shutting down equipment when not in operation, promptly repairing steam and air leaks, insulating piping and executing several lighting optimization projects. Other projects include finding other beneficial-use markets for waste materials. For example, some waste that could not be recycled is now being used as “waste to energy”, meaning it will be combusted in a process that generates energy instead of sitting in a landfill.
These best practices will continue to be spread across operations facilities, increasing the impact of Bridgestone’s superior energy performance.
World’s First ULE 100% Zero Waste to Landfill Certification
Recently, Bridgestone earned the world’s first UL Environment (ULE) 100% Zero Waste to Landfill certification. According to UL, industry facilities in the U.S. generate and dispose of approximately 7.6B tons of industrial solid waste each year. Unfortunately, landfills can have negative impacts on environmental and human health: toxins can leach into the groundwater, methane gas can pollute the air we breathe, and land needed for ecosystem preservation or growing food is wasted.
Bridgestone is taking action to verify and communicate its best practices and consistently send zero waste to landfills. The Wilson Plant (passenger and light truck tires) became the first facility of any kind to receive this prestigious validation. Of the three levels of landfill waste diversion validated by Underwriter’s Laboratory, Zero Waste to Landfill is the highest.
Bridgestone initiated the process over a year ago, beginning with setting site goals in February of 2013. The facility had to undergo an extensive, two-part, UL Environment-led audit, which included document evaluation and on-site visits. During the evaluation process, UL verified Wilson’s Zero Waste to Landfill claim with 14 percent waste to energy, determining that a majority of the facility’s waste to energy diversion — 11 percent — is the best possible use for that material. Again, innovation helped Bridgestone step up to the plate in this global first. Teammates began looking for beneficial uses for what was once landfilled waste, i.e. they looked at markets like recycling or resale or materials once thought of as “scrap” or “waste”. Facility leadership worked closely with disposal partner Waste Management Sustainability Services to identify all of the remnant waste materials from manufacturing processes such as whole scrap tires, rubber components and packaging, as well as ancillary support processes such as offices and cafeterias. Together, Bridgestone and Waste Management successfully found other beneficial-use markets for these materials.
This achievement highlights Bridgestone teammates’ hard work and continues to position the company as a leader in identifying and implementing innovative solutions to support environmental sustainability.
World’s First Fortune 500 Company with “one for one” Product Capture and Repurpose Goal
Often, one of the largest impacts of a company’s impact on society and the environment is at the end of the product lifecycle, meaning what happens to a product once it has been used. In 2012, Bridgestone became the first Fortune 500 company to commit to a “one for one” product recapture and repurpose goal.
As a part of the innovative Tires4Ward Program, Bridgestone set forth the vision for a waste-free tire industry. The program is designed to ensure that for every new tire the company sells in the United States, one spent tire – a tire that has been removed from use – is sent to another valuable use.
In 2012 when the program was launched, the Rubber Manufacturers Association measured the rate for tire recapture at 85%. Even though Bridgestone already led the industry with a 98% recycling/repurpose rate for tires across our 2,200 Bridgestone Retail Operations (Firestone Complete Auto Care and Tires Plus brand) stores nationwide, we decided to set the bar higher. After launching the Tires4Ward Program, 100% of spent tires coming into the 2,200+ Firestone Complete Auto Care and Tires Plus stores were sent to valuable use in 2012.
In addition to the one for one commitment, the Tires4Ward Program launched a service offering that provides scrap tire collection for community and river clean-up events. Any River Network or independently organized clean up event can request tire recycling support free of charge from Bridgestone. So far, over 250 community cleanups have occurred with Bridgestone and partners picking up the spent tires recovered. Nearly 70,000 tires in total have been collected from communities and rivers and sent to valuable uses. That’s over 1.3 million pounds of tires – the weight of about 44 city buses.
One of the biggest advances that is contributing to tires being valuably reused is the Bridgestone Bandag Retreads Business. Retreading is a process that takes a structurally sound tire and replaces the outer tread, making it possible to be used multiple times (up to 4-5 times for truck tires). Retreaded tires contain up to 75 percent recycled content. Manufacturing one new truck tire takes 22 gallons of oil. Most of the oil is found in the casing, which is reused in the retreading process. As a result, it takes only 7 gallons of oil to produce a retread.
Retreading not only helps to reduce the total cost of tires, but also makes a major environmental contribution in terms of the more effective utilization of natural resources. Bridgestone’s investment and commitment to retreading and sending tires to valuable uses adds to the industry-leading performance in sustainability.
Not Our Last “First”
These “firsts” highlight Bridgestone’s commitment to environmental sustainability. These accomplishments started with daily actions that grew to larger scale innovation. Now, as Bridgestone sets the bar high for companies in all industries, we will continue to innovate as we make the best products in the world for you and strive for more “firsts”.