Plastic Recycling Directory Shuts Down Because Industry Isn’t Committed

Sandy Rivers
By Sandy Rivers

After two decades of operation, the national online recycling directory for plastic bags and plastic films, known as the Film Drop-Off Directory, has been taken offline. This move comes in the wake of an ABC News investigation that exposed discrepancies in the recycling process. The directory, which was formerly accessible at, had been a valuable resource, directing the public to over 18,000 drop-off locations across the country for the recycling of used plastic bags and film. However, today, visitors to the site are met with a message stating that “the resource is no longer available.”

Nina Bellucci Butler, the CEO of Stina Inc., the company that managed the directory, explained that the decision to discontinue the service was prompted by a lack of genuine commitment from the industry. She emphasized the need for integrity in data maintenance and expressed her concerns regarding the plastic recycling industry’s supply and demand dynamics.

Butler said, “Continuing to offer a resource without real commitment from the industry and seeing how many organizations were willing to backfill without any integrity of how they are going to maintain data, I just couldn’t be a part of it anymore.”

One of the underlying issues was insufficient funding required to maintain accurate information on the site. Additionally, the decision was driven by a desire to shed light on the broader challenges facing plastic recycling.

There’s more of an illusion of stuff getting recycled than there actually is because there is an imbalance in supply and demand,” Butler explained, referring to the cost-effectiveness of producing virgin plastic compared to recycled plastic. “We were not funded to administer and service to the degree that we think is important to maintain credible information, but even if we had funding right now, I don’t think there is enough commitment from industry to really address the supply and demand imbalance.”

Nina Bellucci Butler

Initially supported by the American Chemistry Council (ACC) as part of their Wrap Recycling Action Program (WRAP), the Film Drop-Off Directory included many major retailers and was endorsed by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and various local and state governments. However, the directory operated on its own resources for almost a year before closing down on November 17th, according to Butler.

In May, an ABC News investigation unveiled that plastic bags deposited at several Walmart and Target stores listed in the directory weren’t being recycled as promised but instead were ending up in landfills, incinerators, and other waste facilities. The investigation utilized digital tracking devices attached to recyclable plastic bags to reveal the destination of these bags. Shockingly, most of them didn’t reach recycling facilities.

ABC News placed plastic bag trackers in store recycling bins to discover they were taken to incinerators, including the Wheelabrator facility in Peekskill, New York. Source: ABC News

In response to these findings, Stina Inc. removed all Walmart and Target locations from its list, stating they would only be included once they could confirm proper recycling practices. These retail giants remained absent from the directory until it was eventually taken offline.

While the ABC News investigation played a role in bringing these issues to light, Butler noted that it was only part of a more extensive problem. She expressed concerns about “greenwashing,” where organizations present themselves as environmentally conscious while failing to make meaningful changes in their practices.

The American Chemistry Council’s WRAP program, which initially supported and promoted the Film Drop-Off Directory, has also ceased operations since the investigation aired.

The ACC’s then-Vice President of Plastics, Joshua Baca, acknowledged that the store drop-off concept for plastic bag recycling had limitations and that the industry was investing in other methods to boost plastic recycling rates.

While the ACC declined to comment on the Film Drop-Off Directory and WRAP going offline, the EPA continued to link to the defunct WRAP website until ABC News alerted the agency to the issue on December 1st. The EPA later updated its webpages to reflect the change and expressed its commitment to improving recycling and reducing plastic pollution in the United States.

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