Your tyre selection matters – the environmental effects of tyres

Everything that you see when you look around has been transported on tyres at least once. What kind of tyres do you yourself use to get somewhere each day? Most of a tyre’s environmental impacts are generated during use. We take responsibility for the environmental impacts of our operations and our products throughout their lifecycle.

The right tyre choices reduce the environmental impact

Tyres make the world go round – everything that we see when we look around has been transported on tyres at least once. We need tyres for transportation several times each week, and everyday life as it is today would not be possible without tyres. What kind of tyres do you yourself use to get somewhere each day?

The use of fossil fuels, gasoline, and diesel fuel comprise approximately three fourths of human carbon emissions. Carbon dioxide is the most significant greenhouse gas that is generated by traffic. When a tyre rolls against the road surface, the generated friction is called the rolling resistance. The higher the rolling resistance is, the higher the fuel consumption. Therefore, the tyre has a direct influence on fuel consumption and traffic emissions. Fuel consumption during driving is the single most significant environmental effect during the use of a tyre. The right tyre choices lower fuel consumption and reduce the amount of carbon dioxide released into the air. The determined long-term development carried out by Nokian Tyres has strongly emphasised the reduction of the rolling resistance.

Your tyre choice affects

We all can influence our surroundings and the world by seemingly minor choices.

Your tyre choice matters What you can do What we are doing
Your safety Demand On the frontline of safety
• The safety of everyone in your car as well as other people on the road • Tyres with the best safety innovations Our uncompromising product development and testing result in technical innovations that improve the properties of tyres and increase the safety, comfort, and eco-friendliness of driving.
Your well-being • Tyres that are quiet Quiet tyres
• Driving comfort and peace of mind • Tyres that have been manufactured without any toxic or carcinogenic chemicals After fuel consumption, tyre noise is the second most significant environmental effect during the use of a tyre. Our tread patterns feature a number of noise-reducing innovations. The placement of tread blocks, new types of tread compounds, protrusions in longitudinal grooves, and noise cavities all reduce tyre noise.
• Noise levels in your car and the surrounding environment • Tyres that have been manufactured by only using purified, low-aromatic oils Clean raw materials
• Quantity and quality of road dust • Information about the raw materials used in your tyres, tyre makers' working conditions, and the environmental impacts of tyre production We were the world’s first tyre manufacturer to introduce a manufacturing method that only uses purified, low-aromatic oils. In order to improve grip in icy and wet conditions, we use a renewable raw material – canola oil – in our compounds.
Your finances Drive wisely and rotate your tyres Transparent operations
• Fuel consumption per every kilometre You can lower your fuel consumption by up to 0.3–0.5 litres per one hundred kilometres by regularly checking your tyre pressure and selecting tyres with low rolling resistance. To further extend the safe life of your tyres, rotate them mid-season. We monitor all of our operations with sustainable development in mind. All of our raw material suppliers go through the same stringent process. In accordance with our purchasing policy, our product procurement process includes determining the suppliers’ commitment to environmental issues. We require that our contract partners commit to our principles. Transparency also means fostering a spirit of fairness and enthusiasm in our work community, and being a good neighbour.
• Wear resistance of tyres Recycle
• Condition and durability of roads The raw materials that have been used in your tyres deserve a second life. What you no longer need can be used elsewhere.
You can also influence
• Raw material consumption
• Overall consumption of energy and fuel
• Amount of waste
Your choices influence your surroundings and the world!

Rolling resistance impacts the environment as well as your finances

The rolling resistance of tyres may differ greatly. A difference of approximately 40% in rolling resistance results, on average, in a difference of 5–6% in fuel consumption. Such a difference may occur, for example, between tyres with a class A and class F fuel efficiency rating, respectively. Therefore, the right tyre can save the environment and money. With the current fuel prices, a tyre with a more economic rolling resistance can save approximately €300 over a driving distance of 40,000 kilometres. A wise choice of tyres and a careful driving style also help to significantly reduce the CO2 emissions that are generated during driving.

Rolling resistance means the energy consumed by the deformation during the road contact of the tyre. This deformation, and the amount of energy it requires, can be influenced with structural and material choices in tyre design. Examples of factors that increase energy consumption include the tyre temperature, tyre pressure, load index and tyre wear, as well as air resistance and turbulence due to the driving speed.

Rolling resistance affects the environment throughout the tyre’s useful life. Light rolling corresponds to lower fuel consumption and CO2 emissions. Rolling resistance is measured in terms of a rolling resistance coefficient: the greater the coefficient, the heavier the tyre rolls. At the moment, class C is the most common fuel efficiency rating for Nokian Tyres’ passenger car tyres according to the EU tyre label. The EU tyre label reports fuel efficiency on a scale from A to G. In the near term, improving the fuel economy of tyres is one of the most significant product development targets in the company.

Only about 20–30 per cent of the energy in fuel can be used to move a vehicle. This energy is used in accelerating and braking, but also in overcoming rolling resistance and air resistance.

Tyre lifecycle

Lifecycle refers to the different stages a product undergoes from manufacture to use and to removal from service or, in other words, from raw material to waste. The lifecycle of a tyre begins from a caoutchouc tree in the southern hemisphere, in Indonesia or Thailand, for example. The lifecycle spans the manufacture of raw materials and products, storage, and several rounds of transportation. The tyre’s actual lifecycle ends, for example, when the tyre is crushed and used in land construction.

The lifecycle can be roughly divided into four parts: 

1. Procurement and manufacture of production inputs such as raw materials and energy

2. Tyre manufacture

3. Use of tyre

4. Utilisation of used tyres.

The outset for our environmental protection is the lifecycle approach. This means that we take responsibility for the environmental impacts of our operations and our products throughout their lifecycle. In accordance with our purchasing policy, our product procurement process includes determining the suppliers’ commitment to environmental issues. In 2014, 60 per cent of our raw material suppliers had the ISO14001 certification. All contract partners, such as contractors and subcontractors, must be committed to Nokian Tyres’ principles.

Most of a tyre’s environmental impacts are generated during use. The single most important factor is the vehicle’s fuel consumption. Fuel consumption can be reduced by lowering the tyre’s weight and rolling resistance, thereby reducing the exhaust fume emissions and the formation of greenhouse gases. However, the most significant factor affecting the level of exhaust fume emissions is driving style. Economic driving can generate 10–20 per cent savings in fuel consumption.

The most significant life-cycle environmental impacts of a tyre are caused by the vehicle’s fuel consumption, which also generates emissions into air. Therefore, the following graph presents the environmental impacts of a tyre as the carbon footprint.

Where do tyres end up after use?

Approximately 3.2 million tonnes of used tyres are discarded each year in Europe. The upside for the environment is that the tyres are not worthless and can serve various reuse or recycling applications. They can be used, for example, for building noise barriers on motorways or to form a component in the sub-course of a horse-back riding arena for increasing its elasticity.

If tyres are not appropriately recycled, they will end up in nature or pile up in people’s garages. In 1995, Nokian Tyres and other companies in the tyre industry established the Finnish Tyre Recycling Ltd in order to promote the centralised collection and utilisation of tyres nationally. The recycling rate of tyres in Finland is close to 100%. In all of Europe, for example, 95% of tyres are recycled and non-recycled tyres are taken to landfills. In Russia, the tyre recycling rate is low, and Nokian Tyres has been actively participating in discussions for improving this. In 2015, the discussions led to the completion of new recycling legislation. According to the newly enacted legislation, the share of tyres recycled in Russia must be, at a minimum, equivalent to 15% of the total sales in Russia. 

Most of the recycled tyres are utilised for their material; they are crushed or granulated to replace rock materials in various highway construction and civil engineering applications. One of the best ways to recycle tyres is to retread them. If the carcass of a tyre is undamaged, it can be retreaded – up to two or even four times for bus and truck tyres. Another way to utilise recycled tyres is to combust them for energy, as the thermal value of tyres is close to that of oil. New ways to recycle and utilise tyres are constantly being sought.

This page is included in KPMG’s assurance scope. Assurance report can be found here.