Longtime Eugene recycling program coming to a close

Longtime Eugene recycling program coming to a close »Play Video
Come mid-June, the newspaper recycling boxes like this one will be a thing of the past.

EUGENE, Ore. -- It's an end to an era: After more than 50 years in business, the Eugene Mission's newspaper collection program is set to end.

Years ago, the giant stacks of newspapers, bundled and then sold to mega recyclers, made the mission a lot of money.

But in the last few years, the mission has barely broken even with the program's mounting operating costs.

"It actually has come to the point where fiscally it's not making sense for us, and it's been break even for the last couple of years," said Eugene Mission executive director Jack Tripp at the mission on Thursday, "and it will be losing money this year."

At its peak, the program generated as much as $700,000 a year for the mission. 

Tripp said this was more than 50 percent of the mission's $1 million operating budget at the time.

But in more recent years, the mission's operating costs have jumped to more than $2.1 million, and the revenue generated from the newspaper collection program has dropped to just $100,000.  

Tripp said times have changed: The price of gasoline continues to rise and fewer tons of paper are donated each year.

However, making money for the mission wasn't the only purpose of the program, Tripp said.

“This work therapy program basically kept guys busy for eight hours, but what it didn’t do is what the Bible says--to get to get them well," said Tripp.

Tripp said the work therapy model of treatment for substance abuse is "antiquated" and has failed to address the whole person.

 After the newspaper collection program ends in mid-June, the mission's new Life Change Program will begin.

"This new Life Change Program will really be a holistic approach to the individual--with the goal that in one year after graduation they'll have a job, housing and be a productive member of the community," said Tripp.

Anywhere from 20 to 40 mission residents work at the newspaper collection program, and the year-long Life Change Program will have approximately the same number of openings. 

Tripp said residents, called "guests" by mission staff, will have to apply for the program.

The program will provide substance abuse recovery courses, Bible study classes, individual therapy sessions and work therapy as well.

“So they’ll be giving back, not only to the mission, but we’re looking towards helping the community out as well—one of the big things is we want to get involved with graffiti abatement here in the community," said Tripp.

Funding the new program will be costly, around $25,000 for training and curriculum, but Tripp said the mission hopes to fund it by selling some of the newspaper collection program's assets. 

The big ticket item up for grabs is a restored 1954 Chevy pickup, the mission's very first newspaper collection truck.

Retired in 1979, Tripp said the truck will be sold at silent auction with a starting bid of $10,000.

To place a bid, email Eugene Mission at danae@eugenemission.org before 4 p.m. on Sunday, June 30, 2013.

In addition to auctioning off the classic truck, the mission will be selling all 1,000 rust red colored newspaper collection boxes scattered throughout Lane County.

The mission is asking for at leat a $50 donation for each one.

The Eugene Mission will discontinue its newspaper program on June, 15, and all of the collection boxes not sold will be picked up. 

Life Change Program will start August 1st.