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China introduces green tyre standard

Chinese tyre manufacturers could soon add eco labelling to their products, as the country moves to limit the use of harmful substances.

The China Rubber Industry Association (CRIA) earlier this year put to trial a new specification standard that could lead to a labelling system for eco tyres. The aim has been to limit the use of several potentially harmful substances by early 2015, including high aromatic oils, rubber antioxidant D and rubber accelerators NOBS, TMTM, TMTD and DTDM.

Leading Chinese tyre manufactures have told the media that new tyre labelling would probably come to resemble the European system, although the standard would recommend rather than require modifications to the manufacturing process. The stated aim has been for the industry to self-regulate. The new system would also cap emissions for tyre production and encourage greener production techniques.

The move comes at a time when car ownership in China continues to sharply rise. China Association of Automobile Manufacturers reported that the country added 17.6 million passenger vehicles in the first 11 months of 2014. In 2013, the country added more cars to its roads in one single year than it had cars in total in 1999, notes The Economist newspaper. Indeed, so rapidly has the automotive market developed that China has become home to 16 of the world's 20 most polluted cities, according to a World Bank tally.

"Air pollution is a hot topic now," says analyst Tommy Kong at the consulting group Reach 24H. "Celebrities have taken an active role in raising awareness, and I believe that that has been a trigger for stimulating a broader awareness about sustainability."

Frédéric Cho, Special Advisor, Asia Corporate Finance at Handelsbanken Capital Markets, says the transition to green thinking overtakes foreign observers' expectations. "The driving forces consist of a combination of individuals, non-governmental organisations, enlightened officials in state administrations, media and academics," he says.

Text: Anne Margrete Mannerfelt & Andrea Mogren