The Center for the Circular Economy at Closed Loop Partners and 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 and many still have significant environmental impacts. To accelerate innovation for much-needed solutions, Closed Loop Partners – with Founding Partners CVS Health, Target and Walmart, and joined by Kroger and Walgreens – is forming the Consortium to Reinvent the Retail Bag. Collectively, Consortium Partners have committed more than $15 million to launch the Beyond the Bag Initiative.
Today, global risks from climate change, the global pandemic and mounting plastic waste have revealed the vulnerabilities of our current system. The Beyond the Bag Initiative convenes some of the largest and most influential retailers in the United States to think outside the box and drive long-term, transformational thinking to address a complex global waste challenge. This historic three-year Consortium welcomes additional retailers to join in to help create a less wasteful future.
“The status quo has been shaken, presenting a unique opportunity to build back better and reimagine a more resilient and sustainable way of doing business,” says Kate Daly, Managing Director of the Center for the Circular Economy at Closed Loop Partners. “During challenging times, unexpected and unprecedented collaboration is required and we’re excited to work with leading retailers like CVS Health, Target, Walmart and others – along with the entire industry – to take effective action.”
Studies show that over 100 billion single-use plastic retail bags are used in the U.S. every year, and less than 10 percent of these are recycled*. Every year, plastic retail bags are among the top 10 items found on beaches and waterways worldwide**. That’s why this initiative 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.
Innovative 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, with an initial focus on implementation in the United States. Launched in partnership with global design firm IDEO, the Challenge invites innovators, suppliers, designers and problem-solvers to submit their ideas for game-changing sustainable bag solutions. Closed Loop Partners will launch a Circular Accelerator, develop potential piloting opportunities and aim to make infrastructure investments in support of the development of market-ready solutions.
“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, Corporate Social Responsibility & Philanthropy and Chief Sustainability Officer, CVS Health. “This collaboration with Target, Walmart and other like-minded retailers and innovators allows for collective reach that can be truly impactful.”
“We believe in serving our guests and communities with actions that reduce our footprint on the planet,” says Amanda Nusz, Vice President of Corporate Responsibility, Target. “We’re proud to partner with Closed Loop Partners and other leading retailers to take on a challenge facing the entire industry. We welcome others to join us in this collective effort as we aim to design a better solution.”
“By coming together to tackle the problem, we aim to accelerate the pace of innovation and the commercialization of sustainable solutions,” says Kathleen McLaughlin, Executive Vice President and Chief Sustainability Officer for Walmart. “Through efforts like the Innovation Challenge and the Circular Accelerator, we hope the Beyond the Bag Initiative will surface affordable, practical solutions that meet the needs of customers and reduce plastic waste.”
Founding Partners of the Consortium – 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. The Kroger Co. joins the initiative as the Grocery Sector Lead Partner. “Our commitment to phase out single-use plastic bags across our enterprise and support innovative solutions on our path to Zero Hunger | Zero Waste aligns perfectly with Closed Loop Partners’ goal to reinvent the retail shopping bag,” says Keith Dailey, Kroger’s Group Vice President of Corporate Affairs. “We encourage other retailers to join us in this commitment and bid farewell to the single-use plastic bag for good.” Walgreens joins the initiative as a Supporting Partner, with Alain Turenne, Walgreens Corporate Social Responsibility vice president noting, “This consortium reflects Walgreens enduring commitment to advancing innovative ideas to address critical sustainability issues and our mission to champion the health and wellbeing of every community in America.”
Conservation International and Ocean Conservancy join as Environmental Advisory Partners to provide critical perspective on environmental impacts and solutions throughout the initiative. “Putting an end to the plastic retail bag would be a game changer for the health of our planet, and it is essential that any alternative can be easily adopted by a wide range of retailers,” says Bambi Semroc, Vice President of Sustainable Markets and Strategy, Conservation International. “Conservation International will put our experience in working collaboratively across industry sectors to help identify truly sustainable options that are better for the planet, people and retailers.” Janis Searles Jones, CEO of Ocean Conservancy, says, “Ocean Conservancy has long believed that we need to engage with partners across all sectors to tackle the global ocean plastics crisis; the stakes are simply too high to go at it alone. The plastic retail bag is among the most insidious types of waste we see in our ocean, and we are thrilled to share our decades of expertise on this issue with leaders and innovators to help change the paradigm.”
IDEO joins the Consortium as an Innovation Partner, with Chris Krohn, Portfolio Lead at the company, noting, “Redesigning the single-use plastic retail bag so that alternatives consider the social, environmental and material impact at every stage of the value chain is critical. The collaborative nature of the Beyond the Bag Initiative enables us to collectively accelerate the transition to a more circular and regenerative future.”