If a Lawrence man is successful with his idea for recycling tires, the rubber won't only meet the road, it will become part of the road.
The Douglas County Commission agreed Wednesday night to let Gary Unfred, 29, test his theories by granting him a one-year conditional use permit to store and recycle tires at an old quarry off County Road 438, northwest of Lawrence.
Unfred's plan is to process the tires into rubber strips and granules and test the rubber in aggregate and additives in blacktopping on Grant Township roads. Similar projects in other states that combined chat with 20 percent ground rubber increased the life of asphalt roads by 40 percent, he said. The Grant Township board supports the plan.
After receiving the permit, Unfred recalled his inspiration for the project.
"It struck me one day when I was sitting and thinking about things that I have to do in my life to improve my son's life, basically," he said. "Nobody in Kansas does it. It's easier to dig big holes and bury them and say, `We'll pick them up later.' When is later, folks? Tires don't deterioriate."
ONE EARLY obstacle to his idea, Unfred said, was the half-million-dollar cost of existing tire processing machines. To avoid that expenditure, Unfred and some other people are spending about $5,000 to build their own cutting machines. If the machines work well, they hope to seek a patent and manufacture them for sale to others.
"My goal is to sell enough machines to pay for my processing," he said. "And that's the reason I went into building machines instead of processing."
Unfred said the time he will devote to his recycling venture, "Depends on how much money I make." He owns Gary's Maintenance, a maintenance and remodeling company, and also works for Hallmark Cards.
If this project is successful, Unfred said that he might be interested in developing "tire drive fuel," which would provide fuel for power plants. He said he is awaiting results from six Illinois test burns to see if this concept is feasible.
UNFRED SAID he had agreements with several local tire dealers to pick up their discarded tires. Tires shouldn't be dropped off at the site at this time, he said.
The commission did put eight conditions on Unfred's permit. These conditions require Unfred to store no more than 250 whole tires at one time, have all the applicable permits from the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, work out storage conditions for the tires with the Wakarusa Fire Department, maintain the entrance so tires aren't dropped off and that all tires be removed from the site when the permit expires.