The weak economy appears to be testing the metal of recyclers in LaPorte County.
Some fear it’s getting harder and harder to recycle metal items like large appliances and aluminum cans.
For years, American Legion Post 83 in LaPorte routinely recycled its aluminum cans. Suddenly, the only thing flatter than the empties--is the price of metal.
“We take that money and we keep it in a separate recycling account, and then we buy the grave markers for our veterans who have passed away,” said Post 82 Commander George Watkins.
According to Watson, the cans fetched 75-cents a pound in September of 2008; today the price stands between 23 and 30-cents per pound.
Current economic conditions recently forced the closing of the Universal scrap yard in LaPorte, according to a sign that hangs on the front gate.
The Universal facility went through several recent ownership changes, before being purchased and closed by a global player in metals recycling.
“We had a huge operation, I would believe we were a very big operation, like I said, we took over, other companies would come to us and bring us their scrap,” said LaPorte resident Tom Lopez, who used to work at Universal.
Some fear LaPorte County now has been left with too few options when it comes to metals recycling. “I started at Universal, then I went to Jason’s on Lake Street, then that closed,” said Legion Post #83 Commander George Watkins.
The situation became so bad that Watkins once found a scrap yard that was willing to take his cans—but only able to pay him with an I.O.U.
“On one occasion I went to a recycling place, they said they didn’t have any money at the time. I could either come back in a couple of hours, or come back in a couple of days,” Watkins said.
The company that has apparently been thrust to the top of the scrap yard heap in LaPorte County is a scrappy mom and pop shop in rural Rolling Prairie.
“It is a quick turn around,” said Laura Edgell of Scrappy Iron and Metal. “We were used to being the mom and pop shop that you know we took care of the local Rolling Prairie, New Carlisle people and now we've got people coming from as far as Valpo, Knox and Lacrosse.”
Some worry about the people who aren’t making the trek to Rolling Prairie: People who may be discouraged from recycling by LaPorte County’s present limitations.
“Aluminum cans, now the price per pound is 23-cents, if you have to take it 20 to 10 to 15 miles to cash them in, you know a gallon of gas is over two dollars a gallon, is it worth your while to take them anymore?” asked the Executive Director of LaPorte County Solid Waste Management District Clay Turner.
The situation puts Turner in a potentially uncomfortable situation. “It’s embarrassing for us to say I’m sorry that we didn’t have a place for you to dispose of those, you’re going to have to dispose of those in your trash,” said Turner. “That’s not our mission; we don’t want to say that.”