Sustainability - Retreaded tyres

The question of tyres - sustainability in the van
This contribution is part of the series Sustainability in the van

When I spoke in February on the topic of Sustainability and tyres I also came across retreaded tyres. Full of learned prejudices from the 70s, I did not really devote myself to the subject, but only mentioned it briefly. (Point 4.1.:

Sometime after that, I received a Podcast who surprised me very much: "By the way", the episode "Worn out: How Tyres Work". Here Obika Julius from King-Meiler Tyres Germany threw all my prejudices out the window. I immediately wrote to him and we arranged to talk on the phone. I wanted to question him!

Here is the link to the podcast in question:

I have now written down everything I learned in - hopefully - orderly sequence here for you (and for us, because we also like to forget things).

Before we get to the facts, I would like to speak for Transparency care: as always, we don't advertise, we don't enter into any collaborations, we don't get anything for naming the company.

Everything I have written here I have researched myself, is my own opinion or comes from the conversation with Obika. I also asked Obika and his team to look for errors again. Thankfully, they have done so. (In future I'll start my own business as a tyre know-it-all, I've learned sooo much about tyres).

So if you find any mistakes yourself and want to make corrections, please feel free to do so!

And: There seems to be only one manufacturer for retreaded passenger car tyres in Germany, so I can only name one company. Obika simply took over an hour to answer all my questions. Many thanks for that!

What are retreaded tyres?

Retreaded tyres are tyres that have been reconditioned in a special process. This process usually involves removing a tyre's remaining tread and sidewall and reapplying both. This gives the tyre a new life instead of disposing of it, which makes both economic and environmental sense.

Retreaded tyres are subjected to rigorous safety testing and must meet the same legal requirements as new tyres. Therefore, they should be equivalent to new tyres in terms of safety and performance, provided they are properly repaired and maintained.

Since when have retreaded tyres been available?

Originated in the post-war period due to a lack of raw materials, today mainly used for truck tyres. Experts believe that the first retread was even made in Germany in 1906.

Why only trucks?

The topic of tyres is less emotional for trucks than for cars, the Germans' favourite child. Truck tyres have a much smaller product range; in the passenger car sector there are many more models. That means: more effort.

How often may a tyre be retreaded?

For passenger cars and vans, only once. Truck tyres can be retreaded up to three times. Aircraft tyres even up to 12 times! Formula 1 tyres are also often retreaded. The process is safe. I have learned that I can say goodbye to the bad reputation of the retreads of the 70s.
The rubber that is applied to the tread is new. No recycled material is used. Special rubber compounds for retreading are analogous to new tyres. The following applies: guaranteed quality as with new tyres.

How do you recognise retreaded tyres?

The designation "Retreaded" or a similar indication ("retread", "retreaded", "R" + ECE number: 108 for car retreading, 109 for truck retreading) shall be visible on the sidewall of all retreaded tyres.

Where do the old tyres come from?

Scrap tyres mainly come from Europe, especially Germany, the Netherlands, France and Spain, avoiding transport halfway around the world and additional CO₂ emissions. Car dealers work with disposal companies, which ideally sort the still usable tyres and send them for secondary recycling.

In Germany, however, the reality is often different: many disposal companies shred old tyres or take them to concrete factories for incineration, regardless of their condition, as there are no legal requirements. In the Netherlands, by law, at least 25 % of tyres must be given a second life. In France, there is a deposit system for tyres that motivates disposers to accept tyres and send them for secondary recycling.

Available tyre sizes that are in demand are re-vulcanised. It takes two to three years until new tyre dimensions are available in sufficient quantities as old tyres. Clear, isn't it? The new tyres have to roll first!

If everyone bought retreads now, the new tyre lobby would not like it at all!

So, in theory, it would be great if everyone or many bought retreaded tyres. In practice, it looks like this: In DE, 46 million passenger car tyres were sold in the replacement business alone. This does not include the tyres delivered with new vehicles. Reifen Hinghaus, currently the only retreader in Germany, has a maximum production volume of 500,000 tyres per year. So Reifen Hinghaus is not really competing with any new tyre manufacturer. But I think we should do everything we can to get these 500,000 tyres on our cars!

And the quality?

Many findings from racing are very helpful: if the tyre performs better (that's what they say nowadays, but what they mean is that feedback on the quality reaches the manufacturer quickly and can be incorporated into their research and development), they are convinced more quickly. (Okay, racing is more of a safety or performance issue. It's hardly sustainable). All in all, retreads are not inferior to new tyres in terms of mileage or quality. Moreover, Obika confirms to me once again that King Meilers carry out more stringent quality tests than are required.

What about tyre wear and mileage?

Regarding wear, I could only find a study by the ADAC, but the mileage is identical to that of new tyres. This again has more to do with driving style, etc.

In the ADAC Summer Tyre Test 2023, the tested King-Meiler Sport1 was the only retread to hold its own against 49 new tyres. Regarding wear, the ADAC writes: "In terms of environmental balance, the King Meiler scores with still good wear...".


Now about the sustainability of retreaded tyres

We buy organic, we take our old jute bags with us when we go shopping, we separate our waste. So why not also take a closer look at the topic of car tyres in terms of sustainability?

Insert: Yes, mobility among us Vanlifers is hardly sustainable, but we score points in many other areas such as housing, energy consumption, zero food waste, minimalism. So: We are aware that we can still improve in these areas, that's for sure!

So do you only need a mega-cool AT tyre for its looks? If you ride a lot on the road (tar etc.), a lot of tyre wear is "given away". Some don't even know the brand of their tyres, others choose certain tyres for fashion reasons. For some, performance is important and then there are the price-conscious. And then there is the sustainability motive. That's something to think about, isn't it?

How sustainable are retreaded tyres?

  • The old tyre is not waste and is used a second time. That's a good thing!
  • About 2/3 of the raw material needed is reused, the core remains, only a new tread is applied (see production video below in the link list).
  • Approx. 70 % energy saving in the production of the tyre compared to a new tyre, e.g.: Steel plies are already included in the tyre, retreading eliminates steel production.

Currently, only premium tyres are retreaded, as only these are suitable for a second life. The cheap brands are only made for one-time use and are unfortunately immediately rubbish after tread wear. Besides, there really is a large quantity and selection of premium tyres in Europe, so this has not been a problem so far.

Crazy: All materials for all kinds of products that we buy can be ordered. In the case of retreads, this is only possible for the tread materials, but not for the original product, the old tyre. That is the biggest challenge in retreading. You can't just order the basic tyres, you have to collect them. But if you look at the figures above, for Germany 46,000,000 vs. 500,000, there shouldn't really be a procurement problem.

Nevertheless: Unfortunately, this is precisely the procurement problem that exists, since too many of the new tyres are disposed of more or less professionally in their used condition and are not put to a second use.

Why do we know so little about it?

  • Our ideas & our outdated Prejudice:
  • We (i.e. people in general) love our cars more than nature.
  • We are too lazy to care.
  • The new tyre lobby is really strong and does good work.
  • There are many failures at the political level.

Do tyre dealers even know about the possibility?

There was a time when retreaded tyres had a bad reputation, but this problem no longer exists. Nevertheless, the negative impression lingers in the memory of many people. Some garages and dealers are aware of this option and even recommend it. However, many who still have the 70s in their minds tend to prefer new products. While the sale of tyres per se often requires little advice, retreads need more intensive advice. This means more effort for the dealer, and the customer, i.e. all of us, must actively ask for it.

Our conclusion: sustainability in the motorhome in terms of tyres:

As avid motorhome enthusiasts, you could we all certainly do more in terms of sustainability - it is time for us to take up this challenge!

One approach is to, less to drive. Another tip is, easy to driveas this protects the tyres. You can read more about this topic in our first article on tyres. Here is the link to it:

It would also be worthwhile to think about the Use of retreaded tyres think about it. Find out about it, maybe try out a kit and test its performance. Share your experiences with others and help raise awareness of this more sustainable option.

Until the point is reached where tyres can be produced in a truly sustainable way, we all have the opportunity to choose to buy recycled tyres. Let's take this opportunity to contribute to the environment!

By the way: The Fraunhofer Institute has taken a look at the issue from the CO₂ balance sheet perspective

(Transparency: I was provided with this study free of charge for this article, you normally have to buy it. However, there are numerous summaries on the web).

The Fraunhofer Institute for Environmental, Safety and Energy Technology (UMSICHT) has conducted an interesting study on the CO₂ balance of retreaded tyres. The results are impressive: retreaded tyres cause over 63 percent less CO₂ emissions in production than comparable new tyres. This is due to the lower energy and raw material consumption in the manufacturing process.

The study examined both car and truck tyres of different brands and found that retreaded tyres are superior in the overall CO₂ balance sheet. They have the same rolling resistance class and comparable mileage as new tyres and in some cases can even achieve higher mileage.

Thanks to the Reduced use of resources and energy retreaded tyres also have an ecological advantage. Significant savings are made in electricity and gas during production, and the raw materials required are reduced as only treads and sidewalls need to be renewed. This contributes to a sustainable circular economy and could lead to a saving of over 73,000 tonnes of raw materials by 2027.

In Germany, around 28 percent of commercial vehicles were equipped with retreaded tyres in 2021, resulting in savings of around 105,000 tonnes of CO₂ emissions. Retreading makes it possible to renew commercial vehicle tyres up to three times and aircraft tyres even up to twelve times. The Alliance Future Tyres (AZuR) has set itself the goal of increasing the market share of retreaded tyres over the next five years, which could lead to significant CO₂ savings.

Although retreaded passenger car tyres currently still play a minor role in Germany, the results of the Fraunhofer study show that they cause around 63 percent less CO₂ emissions in production than qualitatively comparable new tyres. The Future Tyre Alliance aims to increase the market share of retreaded passenger car tyres to ten percent in the next five years, which could lead to a saving of around 84,000 tonnes of CO₂.

In summary, the results of the Fraunhofer study show that retreaded tyres are a sustainable and environmentally friendly alternative to conventional new tyres. By increasing the use of retreaded tyres, we could collectively make an important contribution to reducing CO₂ emissions and protecting our environment.

Sources & links, all retrieved 15.05.2023

Contact Obika Julius

Video production process:

Thank you for reading our sustainability thoughts. Every two to three weeks on Mondays we write something about the possibility of living future-oriented in the van. We try to shed light on different areas and hope to do so without pointing fingers.

Our focus is on the joy of van life and the many possibilities. We want to avoid the usual doomsday and renunciation communication.

You can find all the sustainability posts collected in the Category Future.

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Best regards - Heike & Gerd


This contribution is part of the series Sustainability in the van
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1 year ago

Hello Heike.

Many thanks for this work! 👍
I shared on Facebook.
Could you please check if I did it right this time?

Kind regards from Racheli 🤗

1 year ago
Reply to  Rachel

Thank you! Yes, it's wonderful!
Kind regards - Heike