Major retailers are attempting to reinvent the single-use plastic shopping bag, and may integrate leading-edge technologies such as mobile and the Internet of Things (IoT) into their effort.
The Center for the Circular Economy at Closed Loop Partners — with founding partners CVS Health, Target and Walmart — is aiming to reinvent the single-use plastic retail bag, with the goal of identifying, piloting and implementing innovative alternative designs for the current single-use retail bag.
The consortium recently ran a contest, the “Beyond the Bag” initiative, and selected nine winning designs for a sustainable bag for the future. The consortium and its founding partners will work with the winners to test the designs for performance, health and safety, recyclability and compostability, and user experience. The goal is to pilot designs, possibly at Target, Walmart and/or CVS stores, that deliver convenience for customers and reduce plastic waste and retail’s impact on the planet.
A brief review of each design follows:
Sway’s design uses seaweed-derived material that is bio-based and designed to be carbon-negative, meaning it removes carbon from the environment when it’s made rather than adding to it. The bag fits into existing supply chains without needing any new infrastructure.
Fill It Forward
Fill It Forward’s barcode tags connect existing bags to a mobile application that allows users to track environmental impact, earn rewards, and give back to charitable projects.
Chico Bag’s reusable bag is lightweight and compact, and yet can hold up to 25 pounds. The service enables customers to borrow bags on-site as part of the sharing economy.
Returnity designs and manufactures reusable shipping and delivery bags and boxes for products already on the market and provides the e-commerce and delivery packaging system that powers how these bags and boxes are used.
CircularID by EON
EON uses IoT technology to help retailers track inventory, manage reverse logistics and understand how bags are used by monitoring impact throughout the bag’s lifespan.
PlasticFri transforms agricultural waste, non-edible plants and other renewable resources into valuable bio-based, compostable products to replace disposable plastics.
As an upgrade to traditional paper bags, Domtar is developing a new bio-based, recyclable material of 100% cellulose fiber that is stronger and stretchable.
Goatote is a kiosk system that provides easy access to clean reusable bags, offering a reusable alternative for guests that forgot their own reusable bag.
Connected-USE uses IoT technology to connect reusable “smart” bags at a store to digital systems enabled by RFID tags and QR codes, allowing retailers to reward guests with points for every use of their reusable bags.
“We know that tackling the challenge of mounting plastic waste and its impact requires a holistic approach to best serve the needs of people, the business, and the planet,” said Amanda Nusz, senior VP of corporate responsibility at 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.”
Dollar General and Albertsons Cos. recently joined the consortium, which launched in 2020. Kroger, Hy-Vee, Meijer, Walgreens and Dick’s Sporting Goods are also partners.