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Calling all plastic

Organizers of an annual plastics recycling roundup have added a spring event and streamlined operations to one location to handle the burgeoning amount of plastic being recycled by Jackson County residents each year.

The Jackson County Spring Plastic Roundup will be held from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday and Saturday, April 5-6, at The Expo, 1 Peninger Road, Central Point. Cost is $5 per household, $5 a yard for businesses and big loads.

The Jackson County Recycling Partnership is searching for a spot in the Ashland or Talent area for the fall roundup, said coordinator Paige Prewett. If one can't be found, the fall roundup will be held at The Expo as well.

The roundup has mushroomed from less than 20,000 pounds when it started five years ago to 83,000 pounds last year, Prewett said. It has grown too big for its south county collection site at Ashland's National Guard Armory, she said.

Last fall, 60 Master Recyclers — volunteers trained by the county in recycling — sorted, packaged and transported the plastic, which is taken to a recycling facility in Brooks, near Salem.

Participants brought the waste in 1,276 vehicles and it filled eight-and-a-half, 53-foot semi-trailers.

"The biggest request we get from the public is to do it twice a year," Prewett said, adding people find it hard to store the plastic over 12 months and sometimes just toss it into the trash, which ends up in the landfill.

"Plastic is so abundant in daily life now. It's everywhere. It's hard to get away from it anymore," said Prewett, director of Jackson County SMARTWorks.

The Expo site poses a 25-mile round trip for Ashlanders, but Prewett said participants don't seem to be complaining.

Helga Motley of Ashland said she's a miser about putting mileage on her car, but she's willing to drive to Medford for the roundup. "I want to add to the volume brought over there, so the event is worth it for the organizers," she said. "I use very little plastic myself, but my housemate produces a ton of it."

Plastic brought to the roundup has increased by 20,000 pounds a year for the past three years, Prewett said.

The roundup welcomes most plastics, including bags, baling twine, bubble wrap, nursery pots, irrigation parts, tarps, tapes, casettes, discs, toys and kiddie pools. Participants must sort the plastic into soft, hard and nursery plastics.

Not accepted are vinyl, rubber, Styrofoam or stuff with metal in it. A full list can be found at www.jcrecycle.org.

Agri-Plas in Brooks recycles the plastic in many ways, such as making pellets sold to manufacturers for plastic products, including nursery pots, plastic "lumber" and railroad ties. Petroleum can be extracted from hard-to-recycle plastics.

John Darling is a freelance writer living in Ashland. E-mail him at jdarling@jeffnet.org.