The Tour de France may be a much more sustainable racing competition than NASCAR, but it still generates a whole lot of waste in the form of used bike tires. In an effort to clean up cycling’s biggest event, Continental has developed new road bike tires made using rubber derived from dandelion plants.
The company has been experimenting with dandelion rubber for years and recently opened a 35 million euro ($39 million) lab in Anklam, Germany, devoted to bringing the material made from the Russian dandelion plant to commercial use. The company says the dandelion is a more sustainable source than rubber trees, which grow only in the tropics and produce latex only after 7 years of growth. The Russian dandelion can grow in a wide range of conditions and produces a latex-like material after a year.
Using the plant would help avoid monoculture and slash-and-burn farming in the tropics, the company said, and substantially reduce the distance the raw material has to travel to its factories. During this year’s Tour de France, six teams sponsored by Continental will be riding through the French countryside using dandelion-based tires.