FIA Insights: How the FIA is helping to tackle plastic pollution from tyres through research and regulation


The 2023 edition of the World Environment Day aims to #BeatPlasticPollution.1 Throughout their life cycle, tyres – a key element of mobility and motor sport – contribute to harmful pollution. However, in recent years, a number of measures have been developed to limit the negative effects of tyres – and through research, sustainability requirements and stricter controls, the FIA is playing its part in reducing the impact.

The Road to Plastic Pollution

The contribution to plastic pollution made by tyres begins at the design and production phase, through the use of various synthetic fibres such as synthetic rubber, carbon black, and other polymers. Later, during the use phase, degradation and general wear and tear result in the generation of micro-particles that are released into the air, soil and water. Finally, if tyres are not collected and recycled correctly (e.g. landfilled), decomposition can take thousands of years and can greatly damage the surrounding environment. 

And the scale of the problem is enormous. According to the Tire Industry Project (TIP) – a group consisting of the world’s 10 leading tyre companies – each year approximately 1 billion tyres reach the end of their life annually.Additionally, figures released by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) – the world’s largest and most diverse environmental network, featuring more than 1,400 Member organisation – show that an average tyre leaves as much as 4 kg of these particles during its lifetime, amounting to the total of 6.1 million tonnes, comparable with volume of all waste generated by Croatia in 2020 (Eurostat).3

According to an IUCN study, microplastics from tyres are a major contributor to ocean pollution, with between 15 and 31% of the estimated 9.5 m tonnes of plastic released into the oceans each year that could be primary microplastics, almost two-thirds of which coming from the washing of synthetic textiles and the abrasion of tyres while driving.4 To compound the impact, in 2020 the World Economic Forum reported that according to research conducted by the Norwegian Institute for Air Research, the University of Vienna and the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis, about 140,000 tonnes of road microplastics could be transported by the wind into the oceans each year and about 48,000 tonnes might be reaching ice- and snow-covered regions such as the Arctic, contributing to rising sea levels.5 Moreover, as other research discovered, run-off collected from roads getting into rivers could also kill fish species.6

Creating a Circular Economy

Overall, the FIA and its stakeholders are well aware that the issue of tyre-related microplastics is becoming increasingly important and requires action. 

“The FIA has always been committed to promoting sustainable mobility and motor sport and in this regard the FIA has implemented a sustainable energies roadmap with objectives tailored to each championship,” says Xavier Mestelan Pinon, FIA Technical Director, Technical Operations and R&D. “We have a 360-degree approach to this and beyond powertrain solutions we therefore address also subjects such as logistics, the use of materials in general – especially carbon – as well as emissions managed by the production of components and their use. Tyres naturally fall within this sphere, and we are committed to finding innovative solutions and to reducing the environmental impact of tyres while maintaining the performance essential for racing.”

To ensure this, the FIA is taking action through the development of new regulations, by partnering with research centres, and through the selection of tyre suppliers for championships that meet the Federation’s exacting sustainability targets. Ultimately, the goal is to bring sustainable innovative solutions to the issues and together with manufacturers and key stakeholders become a forerunner in establishing a circular economy of tyres. 

Getting a Grip on Materials and Impact 

In 2023, bio-sourced and recycled materials constitute up to 45% of a range of tyres used in the top Hypercar class of the FIA World Endurance Championship. However, the Federation intends to increase the amount across its championships in the coming years, targeting an eventual ratio of more than 90% sustainable components, closing the material loop. 

In the use phase, the FIA is decreasing the number of compounds (soft, medium, hard) and types of tyres (slick, intermediate, wet) available for competitions in order to reduce logistical requirements and thus reduce environmental impact. As such, specific sporting rules have been enforced in a variety of championships. 

“We have introduced a number of changes to championships aimed at reducing impact, such as bring in a minimum amount of groove and control of tyre wear in Rally and Rallycross,” explains FIA Head of Performance Nicolas Aubourg. “Intermediate tyres are no longer allowed in Hypercar and in the future LMGT3 class the number of slick compounds will be limited to one spec per circuit. All FIA World Championships have seen a significant reduction in the number of tyres used in races,” he adds. 

In the short-term, the amount of available tyre specifications in the Hypercar class will be reduced to one single specification per circuit, and two for Le Mans. The maximum number of tyres has been limited in the top-class category (LMP1, Hypercar) since 2015. 

Elsewhere, the FIA ABB Formula E World Championship mandates just two sets of tyres per single-header event. Reducing the number of tyres brings multiple advantages. Not only is it beneficial from economic and logistics point of view, but it also reducing environmental impact.

Lowering the environmental impact of tyres is not restricted to reducing the number of tyres used across events, it’s also about what happens to those tyres following the event. Starting in 2022, with the support of the FIA, racing compounds supplied to the FIA European Truck Racing Championship by Goodyear are retreaded by the company into standard on-road products that can be used by transportation fleets.

In many championships, the FIA also recommends minimum rolling resistance in order to save energy of the vehicle and promote track to road technologies

With regards to tyre warming during competition, this practice is gradually being eliminated from all FIA Championships, while tyre manufacturers, teams and drivers develop better understanding of how to bring cold tyres up to temperature and adapt to changes in performance. The FIA Formula One World Championship and WEC were the two last FIA World Championships in which tyre warming was still allowed. WEC has banned it in 2023 (with exception of the 24 Hours of Le Mans for 2023 only). Formula 1 is currently testing and evaluating slick tyres to run without tyre heating devices, and if successful will introduce this specification of tyre for the 2024 season. A new extreme wet tyre to run without warmers has just been introduced from the Monaco Grand Prix this season, and the intermediate tyre has just completed successful test evaluation for the 2024 season.

Finally, the FIA carefully controls end-of-life management of tyres. Almost all non-confidential (commercial) tyres and 100% of confidential, non-commercial competition tyres used in FIA World Championships are returned to the manufacturer post-race. In addition, through single supplier selection, the FIA values manufacturers who ensure sustainable end-of-life management, in particular material recycling.  

Built-in Sustainability

Looking to the future, the FIA builds increased sustainability measures into all its tenders for tyre supply to its championships. 

At the top levels of single-seater racing, the latest tyre tender for the FIA Formula One World Championship, FIA Formula 2 and Formula 3 Championships, covering the period from 2025-2027, prioritises sustainable supply via a number of key requirements. 

The successful provider will be responsible for the cost of independent monitoring of the particulate emissions as well as the cost of carrying out a life cycle assessment (LCA), for tyres supplied in the championships. 

Sustainability goals within the tender fall into four categories: sustainability within the providing organisation, including certification; social responsibility, ensuring the ethical delivery of its products; environmental and carbon footprint, including emissions reduction, prevention of pollution and traceability of supply chain; and finally the creation of a circular economy in design, use and end-of-life for tyres supplied. 

The search for better solutions also never ends. In addition to established practices, the FIA is currently exploring technology solutions to collect tyre and brake particles during use phase. If successful such systems would significantly limit pollution from tyres used in motor sport and could potentially be replicated in mobility systems on a larger scale.

Through innovative solutions designed to encourage the development of a circular economy around tyre use the FIA is committed to improved environmental performance in motor sport and beyond.