Like many inventors, Gary Unfred has experienced the highs of personal accomplishment and the lows of bureaucratic red tape in the past year.
Unfred, a 30-year-old Lawrence resident, has received a patent on one phase of his tire-recycling machine and has found a market for the tires his machine shreds. However when it comes to increasing his business, he feels his hands are tied because the state has not passed a law mandating the recycling of old tires.
A frustrated Unfred termed the lack of legislation "the ostrich syndrome. If we stick our head in the sand, we don't have to worry about our environment."
A proposal for a tire-recycling law was to have been written by the Kansas Department of Health and Environment by October, he said.
"They've pretty well kicked it back 'til March now, before it comes up for review," he said. "Right now that leaves everything wide open. I thought this would be a grand year until I found the law got kicked back."
Despite the lack of a recycling law, Unfred has made progress with his business. Since his machine became operational the last half of 1991, Unfred has processed between 5,000 and 6,000 tires, which has yielded more than 100,000 pounds of shredded rubber.
THE RECYCLED rubber is sold to a Virginia company that manufactures roofing materials, he said. Other potential markets include road and playground surfacing and bedding for horse stables.
"There's so many different ways to go with that," Unfred said.
On Monday the Douglas County Commission granted him a one-year extension for a conditional use permit to store and recycle tires at an old quarry northwest of Lawrence. The commission also allowed Unfred to store 1,000 tires at the site, an increase from the original 250-tire limit.
Though pleased with this progress, he said the business is "not even close" to turning a profit. Again he pointed to the lack of legislation as the problem.
"I can't compete with ditches," Unfred said, referring to the way some some local tire dealers get rid of old tires.
HE SAID other local tire dealers have supported his efforts by selling their used tires to him. But without a law mandating tire recycling, Unfred is hesitant to buy a $37,000 rubber grinder to augment his operation.
"I'm not going to commit myself to that kind of money until I find out what they want to do with recycling," he said.
The grinder would allow Unfred to turn the rubber into granule-sized pieces. But he said he is not sure how the law would read regarding storage of the rubber granules. Unfred said the law might limit storage to six months, and "you've got to get a lot of tires ground up to justify truck loads of rubber going to different places."