Upcycling bicycle tires to build playgrounds in China’s underprivileged communities

Aug 23, 2023 | Case Study

Together with Meituan and the Yao Foundation, we have built more than 10 sports facilities to date, benefiting over 5,000 children in China since 2022.

Around the world, there have been many initiatives to introduce customized and more sustainable mobility options, e.g. electric scooters, car sharing and bicycle sharing. Dow has been supplying the raw materials to produce more eco-conscious products for applications such as bike tires to Meituan; an e-commerce company whose transportation business focuses on station-free, bike-sharing platform across China. In 2022, Dow, Meituan and the Yao Foundation – a charity initiated by the renowned former NBA basketball player Yao Ming, have teamed up to roll out a cradle-to-cradle program ensuring used polyurethane tires have a new lease of life and creating a positive impact on some of China’s underprivileged communities.

The Challenge

In the past years, Dow has been providing polyurethane tire materials for e-commerce company Meituan, which owns one of China’s biggest e-commerce bike-sharing services, to produce lightweight and maintenance-free bicycles, reduce the environmental impact during operation, and improve operational convenience.

It is true that bike-sharing services have been facilitating low-carbon, environment-friendly mobility while improving urban efficiency. However, as the demand for bike-sharing rises, a new challenge has arrived: how can we extend the lifecycle of used, difficult-to-upcycle tires of the discarded electric bikes?

The Solution

Children in underdeveloped rural areas in China have limited access to sports facilities due to inadequate resources and lack of infrastructure. A solution was found by imagining the possibility to upcycle used bike tires to create playgrounds allowing these children to live a happier and healthier life.

Creative thinking combined with materials science expertise allowed us to find the last piece of the puzzle. Old tires of discarded Meituan bikes are recycled and crushed into granular materials suitable for paving basketball courts or playgrounds. Containing Dow’s SPECFLEX™ Microcellular Polyurethane, these crushed particles offer high resiliency, and enhance performance and comfort.

We also use our VORAMER™ Polyurethane Binders, an environmentally friendly adhesive product, to bond the granular materials to the playground. The adhesive product is solvent free and has no irritating odor. Therefore, it can help protect the health and safety of children.

How can upcycling old bike tires contribute to a safer, more sustainable future?

Together with Meituan and the Yao Foundation, we have built more than 10 sports facilities to date, benefiting over 5,000 children in China since 2022. As more old tires finish their “last mile” they can now be upcycled and built into playgrounds for a more sustainable future for our planet and younger generations.

Learn more about VORAMER™ binder systems

Learn more about SPECFLEX™ C Polyurethane Series