Closed Loop Partners says that 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.
The Center for the Circular Economy at Closed Loop Partners — with founding partners CVS Health, Target and Walmart — is looking to identify, test and implement viable design solutions and models to more sustainably serve the purpose of the current retail bag. Kroger and Walgreens have also joined this newly formed Consortium to Reinvent the Retail Bag.
According to research, the average time a bag is used is 12 minutes, and of the 100 billion plastic bags used each year in the United States less than 10% of them are recycled.
Collectively, consortium partners have committed more than $15 million to launch the Beyond the Bag Initiative, but the three-year consortium welcomes additional retailers as well.
"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."
The consortium is soliciting innovative design solutions globally with an initial focus on implementation in the United States. The Innovation Challenge, launching Aug. 3 in partnership with global design firm IDEO, invites innovators, suppliers, designers and problem solvers to submit their ideas for game-changing sustainable bag solutions.
Closed Loop Partners will also launch a Circular Accelerator, develop potential piloting opportunities and aim to make infrastructure investments in support of the development of market-ready solutions.
"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."
The Center for the Circular Economy says now more than ever is the time to tackle the plastic bag problem for 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."
Environmental organization Greenpeace had a mixed response to the announcement of a consortium, saying that "tacking action to eliminate single-use plastic bags is a good place to start but retailers need to be dealing with their entire plastic footprint.
“We don’t need to reinvent single-use plastic bags, we need to eliminate them. It does not require a three year consortium to figure out that reuse is the answer," said Graham Forbes, Greenpeace global plastics project leader. "We cannot solve our environmental and health crises by simply shifting from one disposable bag to another. These retailers should be identifying the best ways to incentivize reuse, whether it be by providing meaningful discounts for their continued use or sanitized bags for people in stores who forget them at home."