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US Retail Giants Convene to Reinvent the Plastic Retail Bag

Leading retailers CVS Health, Target and Walmart — joined by Kroger and Walgreens, and NGOs Conservation International and Ocean Conservancy — unite to tackle retail bag waste and invite others to join the effort.

The Center for the Circular Economy at Closed Loop Partners has joined forces with leading retailers CVS Health, Target and Walmart aim to reinvent the single-use plastic retail bag — with the goal of identifying, testing and implementing viable design solutions and models that more sustainably serve the purpose of the current retail bag.
Current alternatives to the plastic retail bag have yet to garner industry-wide support or widespread use by the public. As momentum and debate around plastic bag bans gained steam in the US in 2014, so did a preponderance of reusable alternatives; with many major retailers developing their own. But, since the onset of COVID, many retailers worldwide have stopped allowing customers to use their own, reusable shopping bags; leading to a resurgence in plastic-bag pollution along with the overall flood of single-use plastic due to the pandemic.

Closed Loop Partners’ Consortium to Reinvent the Retail Bag convenes the US’ largest and most influential retailers to think outside the bag; and drive long-term, transformational thinking to address a complex global waste challenge. To accelerate innovation for much-needed solutions, the retail partners have collectively committed more than $15 million to launch the Beyond the Bag Initiative.

“We know how important it is to bring our customers along on our sustainability journey, keeping in mind that most are looking for convenience with minimal environmental impact,” says Eileen Howard Boone, SVP of Corporate Social Responsibility & Philanthropy and Chief Sustainability Officer at CVS Health. “This collaboration with Target, Walmart and other like-minded retailers and innovators allows for collective reach that can be truly impactful.”  

The Beyond the Bag Initiative also includes Kroger and Walgreens, and Conservation International and Ocean Conservancy as Environmental Advisory Partners. The historic, three-year Consortium welcomes additional retailers to join in to help create a less wasteful future. The Consortium aims to take a holistic view of the challenge and solutions, aligning consumer convenience and product innovation with the equally important infrastructure for recovery or reuse of any alternatives developed.

New design solutions to serve the function of today’s retail bag will be solicited from around the world through the Consortium’s global Innovation Challenge — in partnership with global design firm IDEO — with an initial focus on implementation in the US. The Challenge invites innovators, suppliers, designers and other problem-solvers to submit their ideas for game-changing sustainable bag solutions. Closed Loop Partners will also launch a Circular Accelerator, develop potential piloting opportunities and aim to make infrastructure investments in support of the development of market-ready solutions.    

Call to action: Join the effort!

Founding Consortium Partners CVS Health, Target and Walmart are calling on other retail leaders — from general merchandise to grocery, apparel, pharmacy, home goods and beyond — to get involved. Interested retailers: contact Closed Loop Partners at [email protected].