A year after its founding, the Consortium to Reinvent the Retail Bag, managed by Closed Loop Partners, has launched a series of tests and multi-retailer pilots to advance sustainable alternatives to the single-use plastic bag and accelerate their potential to scale. Running in CVS Health, Target and Walmart, the pilots will help refine winning solutions from the consortium's global Beyond the Bag innovation challenge, evaluating multiple factors, from technical feasibility to desirability, and will run over a six-week period.
In July 2020, Closed Loop Partners' Center for the Circular Economy launched the Consortium to Reinvent the Retail Bag, a multi-year collaboration across retail sectors, with founding partners CVS Health, Target and Walmart committing $15 million collectively.
Now nine of the founding partners' stores in Northern California will begin pilots with Beyond the Bag Challenge winners ChicoBag, Fill it Forward, GOATOTE and 99Bridges. The solutions being tested include multiple reusable bag models, alongside enabling technologies that aim to help serve 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 to try these new solutions, whether it's to borrow, incentivize or receive reminders to use a reusable bag.
"We're excited to pilot these new sustainable design solutions that can replace the single-use plastic retail bag," said Eileen Howard Boone, SVP of corporate social responsibility and philanthropy, and chief sustainability officer at CVS Health. "Over the last several months, we've worked collaboratively with leading retailers and cutting-edge innovators, and we're thrilled to now be able to bring our customers along on this journey to test these solutions."
"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," added 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."
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. This pilot will test a different part of the retail system, knowing that people shop in various ways — ranging from at home to in store. Domtar, PlasticFri and Sway — companies developing alternative materials to single-use plastic — will undergo rigorous material 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.
"At Walmart, we believe climate change requires bold collective action. Minimizing plastic waste, in particular, depends on collaboration and cooperation across the retail industry," said Jane Ewing, SVP of sustainability at Walmart. "These pilots represent a unique and exciting industry-wide commitment towards a more sustainable future, and we are excited to work with the Consortium to Reinvent the Retail Bag and to be a catalyst for meaningful change."
"To permanently eliminate the 100 billion single-use plastic bags currently used every year in the U.S., 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," noted Kate Daly, managing director of the Center for the Circular Economy at New York-based 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."
The lessons learned from the pilots, which are set to run through early fall, will help inform further iterations of the solutions, and where more testing and investment is needed.