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."
Bentonville, Ark.-based Walmart is No. 1 on The PG 100, Progressive Grocer's list of the top food retailers in North America, while Walmart-owned Sam's Club ranks No. 9 on the list. Minneapolis-based Target is No. 7 and Woonsocket, Rhode Island-based CVS Health is No. 6, while Cincinnati-based Kroger and Deerfield, Illinois-based Walgreens are No. 3 and No. 4 respectively.