NEW YORK — The Consortium to Reinvent the Retail Bag has picked the nine winners of its Beyond the Bag Challenge, which is designed to find more sustainable alternatives to the traditional plastic retail bag. The winners are: ChicoBag, Domtar, Eon, Fill it Forward, GOATOTE, PlasticFri, Returnity, SmartC and Sway.
The winning solutions fall into three categories: Reuse and Refill; Enabling Technology; and Innovative Materials. Their work ranges from reusable packaging systems, to technology that incentivizes consumers to make the sustainable choice, to bags derived from seaweed or agricultural waste. The winners now enter the next phase of the initiative: working closely with the consortium to prototype, refine and test the viability of their designs to scale as long-term solutions.
It is estimated that we use 100 billion plastic bags per year in the U.S. alone and less than 10 percent are recycled; the convenience of single-use plastics has had far-reaching consequences for the planet. Single-use plastic bags continue to be one of the top 10 items found along beaches and waterways according to data from Ocean Conservancy’s International Coastal Cleanup. The global threats brought about by climate change and the pandemic have only underscored the urgency of addressing our current system.
The Consortium to Reinvent the Retail Bag is a pre-competitive collaboration committed to reimagining the retail bag and creating a more circular delivery system. Unveiled in July 2020, the Consortium’s Beyond the Bag Initiative is an ambitious three-year undertaking that aims to identify and scale innovative alternatives to the single-use plastic retail bag. Consortium Founding Partners CVS Health, Target and Walmart committed $15 million collectively to the bold collaboration, with the goal of driving transformational change. The consortium has welcomed additional partners DICK’S Sporting Goods, Dollar General, The Kroger Co., The TJX Companies, Inc., Ahold Delhaize USA Brands, Albertsons Companies, Hy-Vee, Meijer, Wakefern Food Corp., and Walgreens, who have joined in its mission.
“There is no one-size-fits-all solution to tackle a problem as complex as our reliance on single-use plastic bags,” says Kate Daly, managing director of the Center for the Circular Economy at Closed Loop Partners, the company behind the consortium. “The diversity of our winners underscores how businesses and consumers alike need to employ a range of solutions to fit different geographic, social and economic contexts. We’re thrilled to announce these companies entering the next phase of the initiative, as we continue to support their growth and begin to implement select pilot programs.”
The Center for the Circular Economy at Closed Loop Partners offers a holistic approach to tackling complex challenges to the circular economy, by operating across every point of the value chain. This enables the Center and its partners to better understand the diversity of needs across multiple sectors, enhance buy-in from key players and identify opportunities. The Center is a place where competitors and peers alike can join for a common purpose.
“It is exciting to see the potential of our efforts to reimagine the single-use bag in action as we unveil these innovative solutions,” says Eileen Howard Boone, senior vice president, Corporate Social Responsibility and Philanthropy, CVS Health. “We look forward to exploring opportunities to pilot these solutions at CVS Pharmacy locations.”
The Beyond the Bag Challenge is only the first step. The Center and its partners are committed to a measured, data-driven approach to test and scale viable, long-term solutions that bring value to the entire system.
“We know that tackling this challenge requires a holistic approach to best serve the needs of people, the business, and the planet,” says Amanda Nusz, senior vice president of Corporate Responsibility, Target. “We’re excited by the nine winners – together they offer a compelling range of possibilities and inspiring potential solutions to this urgent and necessary work.”
“We’re proud to be part of a collaborative endeavor like the Beyond the Bag Initiative,” says Jane Ewing, senior vice president Sustainability, Walmart. “The Beyond the Bag Challenge winners inspire us to reimagine a more sustainable future, showcasing the breadth and tangibility of innovative solutions and we look forward to supporting them in their development.”