Gross garbage or earth-saving effort?

Ashland Middle School students in Eric Sandrock's homeroom have spent class time talking about garbage.

The 13- and 14-year-olds watched a movie about the trash patch floating in the ocean. They learned the difference between recyclable plastic and waste. And they know to look for metal that contaminates plastic so it can't be remade into nursery pots, plastic lumber and railroad ties.

Now, they're ready to separate the good from the bad to contribute to the Jackson County Spring Plastic Roundup, which continues from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. today, Saturday, April 6, at The Expo, 1 Peninger Road, Central Point.

AMS families had been collecting their jumbo apple, lettuce and juice containers and other plastic for weeks. They dropped it all off at the school so the kids could separate the soft from the hard pieces, as well as nursery potting trays, buckets and other agricultural plastics.

This is the fifth year Sandrock has galvanized the middle school community. Last year, AMS families gathered 700 pounds of plastic, adding to the more than 40 tons that were collected at the countywide Plastic Round-up.

On Thursday, Michael Burt, 14, stood up from his plastic school chair, took off his dapper Fedora hat and black leather jacket, and said, "Let's do this. Let's sort plastic to save the world."

He and his classmates then slapped on latex gloves and tore into huge garbage bags filling Sandrock's classroom and spilling into the hallway.

Uncontained were ABS plastic wheel covers, office floor mats and a turquoise tool box. Propped against the wall was a Huffy sports basketball net backboard and chipped trash can lids. Recyclable tarps covered some of it. In a corner stood a box holding an assortment of PVC pipes.

Some AMS students sorted through the yogurt containers, baling twine and toys, discarding any metal.

A gaggle of girls squealed when they encountered pesto still inside a supposedly empty container. "OMG!" blurted a girl as a light food container tossed into a trash can came a little too close to her specially curled hair.

Two boys carted a broken Dogigloo dog house toward the weight scales.

"Weigh yourself first, then weigh yourself holding the plastic, then do the math" to figure out the weight of the plastic only, said Jamie Haden, the health and leadership teacher who brought her class to join in. "Then record the weight on the white board."

During this last period of the day, McKane Ellis, 13, would normally be sitting in his leadership class, "talking about being a leader and how to act in life." Today, he's doing all he can to keep plastic out of the ocean.

He and a group of boys pounded grocery bags into a giant sunflower seed plastic bag, acting as if they were working out on a boxer's punching bag.

"Let's see how many of these ginormous totes we can fill with recyclable plastic," said Sandrock. "But save the bubble wrap for our Bubble Wrap Extravaganza."

Sandrock will gladly pay the $5 fee to drop off the load at the Plastic Roundup. The father of two says it's important for everyone to participate.

"It's all about getting the students involved with the larger world," he said. "They can feel they did something big."

When the class was over, the students tidied up as best they could, washed their hands and then went home to tell their parents what they had learned that day.

Reach reporter Janet Eastman at 541-776-4465 or

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