Continental and digital tracking company Security Matters (SMX) have verified a method for invisibly marking natural rubber with information on its geographical origin. This means that responsibly sourced natural rubber and its origin can be verified at every stage of the supply chain all the way through to the customer.
The marker technology, which the companies created for use in natural rubber, is designed to create greater transparency along the entire value chain of tires and technical rubber products from Continental.
For the field test, natural rubber grown as part of a joint project run by Continental and the German development aid agency GIZ (Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit) in the Indonesian province of West Kalimantan was used and provided with the markers.
The marker substance was added to responsibly grown latex during harvesting and withstood not only the intensive preparations involved in the production of natural rubber but also the tire manufacturing process itself. The appearance and performance of a bicycle tire containing the invisible marker remained unchanged. In the manufactured tire, the data was retrieved using purpose-built software and a reader and was interpreted.
This initiative is intended to support Continental’s goal that all materials used in its tire production will originate from sustainable sources by 2050 at the latest. As a result of this completed test, Continental will use the new marker technology on a larger scale in the future during the process of sourcing its rubber, and integrate it into other rubber products. As part of the industrialization of this technology, the company will consider linking the markers with blockchain technology, to protect it from tampering.
Claus Petschick, head of sustainability at Continental Tires, said, “We see huge potential in marker technology. In the future, it will help us to ensure that the natural rubber we use in our tires is grown and sourced entirely responsibly. Over the long term, we believe that marker technology could help to make the sometimes highly complex processes in our supply chains more transparent and verifiable. With Security Matters, we have an innovative partner for the development and trialling of marker technology by our side.”
Haggai Alon, CEO of SMX, added “Together with Continental, SMX will use marker, reader and digital technology to further improve the transparency of the natural rubber supply chain and enable sustainability and circularity.”