The French sports company Decathlon, alongside the innovation partners Rubberlink and Tintex, are responsible for two of these pilot projects, which consist of prototype footwear made from discarded tire materials.
NextLap is a program in which Beta-i applies its collaborative methodology, oriented to the development of pilots and new projects between companies, startups, and other innovation partners, to accelerate the transformation of business models, products, and services. Besides Valorpneu, Genan, Decathlon Portugal, and Infraestruturas de Portugal, construction companies like Grupo Opway and Pragosa, automotive cluster MOBINOV, recycling company Extruplás, footwear company Procalçado, and sportswear brand Houdini, are also involved in the program.
For nine months, partners and entrepreneurs have been dedicated to the creation of pilots to treat and reuse three components derived from end-of-life tires: rubber granules, textile fibers, and steel. The innovators of the Portuguese Rubberlink created a solution of devulcanized tire rubber that allowed Decathlon Portugal to produce a prototype of a shoe with a 100% recycled rubber sole. According to data from Genan, in comparison with the use of virgin raw materials to produce similar products, for each ton of tire that is recycled, less than 700kg of carbon emissions are produced.
The innovators of the Portuguese company Tintex, through the materials supplied by the recycler Genan, have managed to reuse the rubber powder derived from tires to create the upper part of gym shoes that will also be tested by the largest retailer of sporting goods in the country. This innovation allows rubber powder to be used for something that, until now, had not been considered.
Tintex was also responsible for the development of a solution to take advantage of the textile derived from the tire, which will allow the reuse of a material that has few economic applications and, compared to standard raw materials made with leather, reduce the total consumption of energy and water in its production. Possible applications for this solution are bicycle seats, among others.
Infraestruturas de Portugal may support the implementation, in collaboration with innovators Pavnext and partner Pragosa, for a technology to be placed on roads, covered with rubber from
recycled tires, which aims to slow down the speed of vehicles when approaching and entering businesses’ parking spaces. Together with Opway, the public company is also interested in continuing to support Runcobar in the possibility of implementing acoustic barriers made of rubber derived from recycled tires on its railway lines, which will allow a 30% decrease in carbon emissions compared to the production of oil-based barriers.
According to Climénia Silva, Valorpneu’s General Director, “as the entity which manages used tires in Portugal, Valorpneu has been permanently investing in R&D and the development of new solutions for end-of-life tire derivatives. NextLap is another bet in this direction, with the added value of combining knowledge and innovation with partners from the industry and distribution, thus allowing the “ideas” to come off the paper and materialize in concrete projects. We are looking forward to this project and with this proximity to the market, and at the same time, confident that we will grow with the companies that joined the NextLap program, to diversify the applications and solutions for end-of-life tires and be at the forefront of a more sustainable and responsible future.”
José Carvalho, Director of Business Innovation at Genan, explains that “Genan is always at the forefront of the search for new solutions for the use of secondary raw materials from end-of-life tires, manufactured in its recycling units. With great enthusiasm, the professionals in the Innovation and Technical Sales Support department discover trends, recognize needs, and respond accordingly. The objectives of the NextLap project are to bring innovators and industries together and to drive the entry of new solutions into the commercial circuits. The first objective was effectively achieved, and, with the creation of the prototypes, it will be possible to evaluate all the inherent properties to enable the transition to mass production.”
For Pedro Rocha Vieira, co-founder and CEO of Beta-i, “it is with great satisfaction that we reach the end of a collaborative innovation program with tangible projects, ready to be developed and implemented in the real market, and with others in development. This is further proof of collaboration as a driver of innovation – and thanks to our methodology, we were able to modulate all the interests associated with the NextLap challenges to create real benefits to the environment and business of our customers and partners.”
It should be noted that, annually, on average, 80 thousand tons of end-of-life tires are generated in Portugal, with around 60 percent being sent for recycling and the remaining 40 percent for energy production. According to a study promoted by Valorpneu on the impact of used tire management in Portugal, for each ton of tires recovered, the emission of 1.3 tons of CO2 (greenhouse gas emissions) is avoided, and 37283 MJ of energy is saved, contributing to a significant reduction in environmental risks. The system avoids about 45M€ of imports and contributes about 78M€ to the national GDP, generating wealth, as well as leveraging job creation with about 970 direct jobs and 1000 indirect ones.