Ecodesign. You get what you pay for!

Guido Gambassi

Every so often Pneurama features articles on circular economy. This issue is no exception, hence we turn our attention to this subject taking advantage of the opportunity offered by a recent event held in Rome and organized by AIRP with the aim of raising public awareness not only on the need to support with appropriate policies the tire retreading sector but also on the urgent need to address a far-sighted transition towards a new economic model, profoundly different from anything we are accustomed to. Two proposals emerged from the meeting: environmental taxes to encourage sustainable production practices, and the need to establish a new industrial paradigm, eco-design: the creation of durable goods. Now as far as the first option, everything appears to be lying in the hands of politicians and institutional players, while eco-design, if there ever was a real desire to act in that direction, would largely depend on the role played by the sector’s enterprises. In the case of tire manufacturers, offering a product designed to last much longer than we are accustomed to, or suitable for multiple retreading processes, represents a significant technological challenge aimed at reducing operating costs as well as the environmental impact both upstream and downstream of the production.

Despite the fact that many still view this as mere science-fiction, about a year ago, the then CEO of a large tire multinational declared that the entire industry should set itself the goal of producing 400 million fewer tires worldwide each year. The goal of producing less might seem a paradox. However, if we delve a little deeper, we will realize that this means more efficient production methods, better working conditions and a real boost to the environment, besides guaranteeing greater economic sustainability to the entire sector. From this point of view, it would no longer be a paradox, but rather the beginning of a new economic model. Utopian perhaps, but as pointed out during the AIRP event, the impact that low-cost tires have had on the European market has not only affected the retreading sector, but triggered a price war that has impoverished the value of the products on the market, resale, services and so on. Of course, in many shops the fact of having a high replacement rate is still viewed as positive. However, when doing the math, how convenient has it been for the whole supply chain to “fight” the competition relying solely on low prices? It’s about time the whole industry starts facing the facts.

In the end, the expected changes might never take place or come to fruition becoming reality. Then everyone will continue to defend his or her company's margins as best they can. If, on the other hand, the day arrives when the competitive edge shifts from price to product quality, durability and sustainability, then perhaps retailers will finally have the perfect opportunity to enhance their professionalism. Not to mention that this would also make an important contribution towards a general cultural transformation, necessary to highlight, as well as understand, all the advantages of a superior product - remind us of what our fathers used to say: you get what you pay for! A good way to summarize the principles behind eco-design.