The partnership among the leading retailers’ different stores sets an exciting precedent; collaboration will help accelerate pathways to scale and help address the systemic challenge of plastic bag waste.
Today, the Consortium to Reinvent the Retail Bag, managed by Closed Loop Partners, reached a significant milestone a year after its founding: the launch of a series of first-of-a-kind, multi-retailer pilots to advance sustainable alternatives to the single-use plastic bag and accelerate their potential to scale. The six-week pilots will help refine winning solutions from the Consortium’s global Beyond the Bag innovation challenge, evaluating everything from technical feasibility to desirability.
Beyond the Bag Challenge winners ChicoBag, Fill It Forward, GOATOTE and 99Bridges will begin pilots across a total of nine stores of the Consortium's Founding Partners — CVS Health, Target and Walmart — in Northern California. The solutions being tested include multiple reusable bag models alongside enabling technologies — which address customers’ needs, extend the useful life of retail bags and provide visibility into the full lifecycle of a bag. Across the select stores, customers can sign up and try these new solutions — whether it's to borrow, incentivize or receive reminders to use a reusable bag. The partnership among leading retailers’ different stores sets an exciting precedent; collaboration will help accelerate pathways to scale and help address the systemic challenge of plastic bag waste.
In addition to the in-store pilots, other winning solutions from the Beyond the Bag Challenge will be piloted and tested in different contexts. Returnity and Eon will pilot through Walmart delivery in select markets to test a different part of the retail system, knowing that people shop in various ways — ranging from at home to in store. Meanwhile, materials innovators Domtar, PlasticFri and Sway will undergo rigorous performance and recovery testing to optimize their designs to meet the needs of retailers and customers, and match the specifications of recycling and composting facilities.
“To permanently eliminate the 100 billion single-use plastic bags currently used every year in the US, we are working collaboratively to build retail solutions that better meet customer needs while lessening the impact on the environment. By testing new bag innovations in-store, we gain valuable insights that allow us to iterate quickly and expand to more communities,” says Kate Daly, Managing Director of the Center for the Circular Economy at Closed Loop Partners. “Knowing that systems change does not happen overnight, these pilots are an essential step to test, incorporate customer and retailer feedback, and improve new solutions, exploring pathways to scale.”
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This phase of experimentation is essential to the collaborative work of the broader Consortium — which includes additional Partners DICK’S Sporting Goods, Dollar General, The Kroger Co., The TJX Companies, Ulta Beauty, Ahold Delhaize USA Brands, Albertsons Companies, Hy-Vee, Meijer, Wakefern Food Corp and Walgreens. The lessons learned from the pilots will help inform further iterations of the solutions and where more testing and investment is needed.
The tests and pilots are just one part of the Consortium’s complementary workstreams — which span innovation, advancing materials recovery through infrastructure investments, identifying best practices for policy and engaging consumers — all underpinned by work with key stakeholders across the entire bag value chain.
“We envision a retail industry where alternatives to the single-use plastic bag are easy and accessible for all communities. We’re proud to work together toward this goal alongside CVS Health and Walmart — as co-creation is key to our new sustainability strategy, Target Forward,” says Amanda Nusz, SVP of Corporate Responsibility at Target and President of the Target Foundation. “We are thrilled to pilot these winning designs, as we know that collaboration and continuous iteration are integral to developing new potential solutions.”
The pilots will run through early fall; the Consortium looks forward to sharing the insights gathered to help realize a more circular future for retail.
Click here to learn more about the pilots, where they are happening and the innovators participating.