More than 200 miles away from the Kingston, New York, Target store’s plastic bag recycling bin lies Seneca Meadows, a landfill that does not recycle plastic bags. Yet the facility in Seneca County, which is New York’s largest garbage dump, was the last place where a plastic bag tracker placed by ABC News inside the recycling bin at the Kingston Target ended up pinging.

“We’ve suspected for quite a while that our recycling programs don’t work as they’re supposed to,” said Rich Swinehart, CEO of Waterloo Container, a business near Seneca Meadows. “We’ve suspected that a lot of recyclables end up in the landfill, and that’s exactly the root of the problem.” Half of the trackers last pinged from incinerators or landfills, many of which are located in rural areas like Seneca County. Some local residents have voiced concerns about living near Seneca Meadows, citing periodic odors, truck traffic, and fears of health risks.

In a statement to ABC News, Target said that last year, the company recycled nearly 24 million pounds worth of plastic bags and plastic film materials. “We take seriously the role we play in reducing waste and we’re committed to looking at our processes to improve our recycling efforts,” the statement said in part. “I understand the position that the world needs a place to dispose of their waste,” said resident Bill Lutz. “The problem is the waste is concentrated in such large amounts in such a small community.”

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Author: Jared Kofsky, Tonya Simpson, Cho Park, and Cindy Galli, ABC News
Image: Mark Pitifer, ABC News