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Plastic Recycling Directory Closes Amidst Lack of Real Commitment

After two decades of operation, the Film Drop-Off Directory, a national online recycling directory for plastic bags and films, has been offline. 

This move comes six months after an ABC News investigation shed light on the discrepancies in plastic bag recycling, raising concerns about the credibility of the directory. 

The platform, which once directed the public to over 18,000 store drop-off locations, has been deactivated, leaving questions about the future of plastic recycling efforts.

The Demise of the Film Drop-Off 

Managed by Stina Inc., the Film Drop-Off Directory faced challenges maintaining credible information on the site.  Nina Bellucci Butler, CEO of Stina Inc., cited a lack of funding as a primary reason for the shutdown. 

The decision to deactivate the area was also influenced by concerns about the industry’s commitment to addressing the supply and demand imbalance in plastic recycling.

Butler emphasized that the imbalance in supply and demand for recycled plastic has created an illusion of widespread recycling efforts. 

The cost-effectiveness of producing virgin plastic, compared to recycled plastic, has contributed to the challenges faced by the industry. 

The shutdown of the Film Drop-Off Directory highlights the complexities and shortcomings of the plastic recycling landscape.

Initially funded by the American Chemistry Council (ACC) as part of their Wrap Recycling Action Program (WRAP), the Film Drop-Off Directory included major retailers and received promotion from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). However, the lack of sustained funding and the challenges in ensuring the accuracy of information led to the platform’s closure on November 17, 2023.

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Unraveling the Plastics Dilemma

After two decades of operation, the Film Drop-Off Directory, a national online recycling directory for plastic bags and films, has been offline.

In May 2023, an ABC News investigation revealed that plastic bags dropped off at Walmart and Target stores listed on the directory needed to be recycled as claimed. 

Instead, they ended up in landfills, incinerators, and other waste facilities. Stina Inc. responded by removing Walmart and Target locations from the list, and both retail giants remained off the directory until its recent deactivation.

The shutdown of the directory also reflects broader issues in the industry, with Butler highlighting the challenge of “greenwashing,” where organizations market themselves as environmentally conscious without substantive actions. 

She believes this practice hinders real environmental progress and contributes to a growing problem.

While Walmart and Target declined interview requests, the American Chemistry Council’s WRAP program also went offline after the investigation aired. 

The ACC acknowledged that the store drop-off concept for plastic bag recycling must work to the desired scale. 

The EPA continued to link to the now-defunct WRAP website until notified by ABC News on December 1, subsequently updating their web pages.

The closure of the Film Drop-Off Directory underscores the challenges and complexities within the plastic recycling industry. 

As environmental concerns grow and public awareness increases, how the industry will adapt to address the critical issues surrounding plastic waste and recycling remains to be seen.

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