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Busy 24-hour West Lafayette drop-off recycling center closing after decades on S. River Road


West Lafayette needs space for equipment, so drop-off site will move to trash transfer station on North Ninth Street in Lafayette.

Arnold Newman sorts his recycling at the West Lafayette recycling center, Friday, May 10, 2019, in West Lafayette. The center was first opened in 1970’s and has evolved over the years to include recycling for cooking and motor oils, food waste and other household recycling items. (Photo: Nikos Frazier | Journal & Courier)

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – The sign flashing over the bins of glass waiting for recycling didn’t catch Stuart Grant’s eye right away, when he pulled into the West Lafayette drop-off center on South River Road.

“I’m just here to dump this oil,” said Grant, who’d made it so far without spilling the remnants of a recent oil change on the drive from his garage a few miles south of Lafayette to 705 South River Road. He was determined to make it, steady and undistracted, in the final steps from his truck to the collection tank without leaving a trail or a mess.

Behind him, the lighted construction message board kept circulating the news in two repeated lines:

“This station will be closing May 13.

“Thank you for your many years of support.”

“Well,” Grant said, after mission accomplished with five quarts of spent oil and a worn-out filter, “looks like it’s the last time for this.”

At least, it will be, as of Monday for a 24-hour drop-off center that has been a hub for recycling since the 1980s.

West Lafayette has been signaling the move since December.

Ben Anderson, West Lafayette’s street and sanitation commissioner, said closing the drop-off center has nothing to do with volume. The drop-off site averages more than 500 visits a day, working out to one every three minutes, seven days a week.

And, Anderson said, it has nothing to do – “No matter what you hear,” he said – with West Lafayette’s commitment to recycling, in a city where curbside bins have been staples for decades.

“I’m just out of room,” Anderson said. “And I’m just out of time.”

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The drop-off center, while housed and maintained on West Lafayette’s street and sanitation property all these years, actually is a Tippecanoe County service, aimed primarily at residents outside Lafayette and West Lafayette who don’t have residential recycling pickup.

The county had paid West Lafayette $41,000 to house and run the site. West Lafayette was able to get whatever the fluctuating markets would bear by selling what was dropped off. That amount has been getting smaller for West Lafayette, dropping from a range of $98,737 to $111,991 between 2006 and 2008 to a range of $15,597 to $25,559 from 2015 to 2017, according to city records.

West Lafayette has been making plans for new storage facilities for a growing fleet of trash trucks, snow plows and more. The city initially had hoped to have the bins for cardboard, paper, glass, plastics, antifreeze and more moved to a new site at the start of 2019. But city officials held off, as county commissioners negotiated a move.

Anderson said contractors hired by the city to do the work on the new facilities started getting antsy this spring. Finally, they all agreed to aim the final days for the center until after Purdue’s commencement ceremonies, which conclude Sunday.

“Monday is going to be a madhouse here,” Anderson said. “I just know it, being the last day and all. … This place really gets used. A lot. But, man, I’m landlocked and out of room. I need to get that equipment under roof.”

That’s meant some last-minute scrambling for the county.

Starting this week, the county’s main recycling drop-off will move to the trash transfer station at 2770 N. Ninth St. in Lafayette.

“The only real difference will be the hours,” Commissioner Tracy Brown said. “That might take some getting used to.”

Instead of West Lafayette’s 24-hour setup, the transfer station’s schedule will be 7 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday, Wednesday and Friday; and 7 a.m.-6 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday; and 7 a.m-1 p.m. Saturday.

The county also has smaller drop-off sites in Stockwell in the southern part of the county; Southwestern Middle School on County Road 800 South, southwest of West Lafayette; and East Tipp Baptist Church on County Road 300 North, northeast of Lafayette.

“We’ve been a little behind the eight ball, because West Lafayette needs to get going on its project over there,” Commissioner Tom Murtaugh said. He said work still needs to be done with equipment and site prep to get the trash transfer station space up to the sort of capacity West Lafayette has been handling.

Brown said the county is exploring options for additional drop-off sites.

At the West Lafayette drop-off site, Anderson said his crews are getting ready for a busy last call Sunday and Monday.

“And probably some beyond that,” Anderson said, knowing people will continue to show up with loads.

“Old habits are going to die hard,” he said. “We’ve enjoyed taking care of people out here for such a long time. No, really. You run into all kinds of people. We just can’t do it anymore.”

WHAT YOU CAN DO: With its West Lafayette drop-off site closing May 13, Tippecanoe County has four alternative sites with drop-off recycling bins:

► Tippecanoe County Transfer and Recycling Station, 2770 N. Ninth St. Hours: 7 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday, Wednesday and Friday; and 7 a.m.-6 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday; and 7 a.m-1 p.m. Saturday.

► Town of Stockwell.

► Southwestern Middle School, 2100 W. County Road 800 South.

► East Tipp Baptist Church, 5300 E. County Road 300 North.

Reach Dave Bangert at 765-420-5258 or at dbangert@jconline.com. Follow on Twitter: @davebangert.


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