Dana Giffen's devotion to recycling was instilled in her long before plastic came into style.
"Obsession" is a better word for people's use of it, Giffen said of plastic, posing with a collection of at least 50 filled bags in her garage storage room.
In about a month, all of the bags, filled with countless items, will be hauled away to the annual October Jackson County Plastic Round-up.
Giffen accounts for a miniscule amount of the plastic stash, she said. The majority of the collection she picks up from Ashland Food Angels, a nonprofit that collects and distributes unwanted food items from grocery stores in the region. She also has neighbors' and several friends' recycling, she said.
"I would prefer that we not even put stuff in plastic, but since so much of it is out there, the next best thing we can do is recycle it," Giffen said. "This is just a simple, concrete thing you can do. It's part of being a good citizen; part of taking care of the Earth."
Giffen turns in her personal recycling on a weekly basis, she said, "in order to cut down on this mountain," which took a friend's horse trailer to haul in last year.
For the past three years, starting and ending with the mid-October plastic round-up, Giffen has collected, sorted, and stored what recycling she could for an entire year.
This year's round-up is from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Oct. 19-20, at the Ashland National Guard Armory, 1420 E. Main St., Ashland, and The Expo, 1 Peninger Road, Central Point.
"We've changed from people, just in my lifetime, who used everything wisely, to people who throw everything away," Giffen said. "My generation was less mindful of the environment "… but I think things are coming back into people's consciousness."
She points to her mom, who raised her during the Great Depression, as the reason she is so conscious about throwing usable items away.
She said her mom used to ask the family to neatly unwrap presents, so the paper could be reused, and Giffen still has a set of large area rugs her mother braided out of remnants of the family's tattered clothing.
"Dad's golf pants, our shirts, slipcovers — it's all in here," she said, pointing around the 30-year-old mat.
Last year, the round-up brought in more than 30 tons of recyclable plastic, said Paige Prewett, co-director of the Jackson County Recycling Partnership, which sponsors the event.
"It grows every year," Prewett said. In 2010 the round-up hauled off 25 tons.
The fee is $5 for any load of plastic. The fee pays for shipping the castoffs to AgriPlas in Brooks, near Portland. Large loads or businesses pay $5 a yard. Neither of the round-up locations accept PVC pipe, vinyl, rubber, Styrofoam or plastic with metal in it.
It's also important for people to pre-sort their plastics before bringing them in, said Risa Buck, zero waste specialist for Recology, which helps supervise the event.
Plastic items that are still useful will be put in "free" piles by the exits.
The round-up welcomes most plastics, including drip tape, irrigation components, nursery pots, trays and flats, greenhouse film, landscape fabric, milk jugs, plastic hangers, play pools and tarps.
For a list of acceptable plastics, visit www.jcrecycle.org, and click of the "2012 Plastic Round-Up" link, on the middle of the webpage.
The sites are manned by busy cadres of master recyclers, trained by Recycling Partners, which is composed of all the municipalities in the valley, plus Recology Ashland Sanitary Service, Rogue Disposal & Recycling and Southern Oregon Sanitation.
Prewett applauds people such as Giffen, who collect all year, she said, because "it gives people a good perspective on how quickly this stuff can build up."
"It's a good way for people to realize how big our personal plastic footprint really is," he said.
Reach reporter Sam Wheeler at 541-499-1470 or email email@example.com.