The world’s biggest retailers are trying to replace the plastic shopping bag.It’s hard to deny the convenience of having your retail purchases bagged and ready to take home. But as single-use plastic retail bags continue to create a growing environmental issue.
Target, Walmart and CVS Health unveiled a $15 million joint initiative on Tuesday to replace plastic bags with something else over the next three years. The companies, which each contributed $5 million, aim to create a global competition to find a way to change plastic bags or make them unneeded.
The Center for the Circular Economy at Closed Loop Partners has joined forces with 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.
Closed Loop Partners’ Consortium to Reinvent the Retail Bag convenes the US’ largest and most influential retailers to think outside the bag; and drive long-term, transformational thinking to address a complex global waste challenge. To accelerate innovation for much-needed solutions, the retail partners have collectively committed more than $15 million to launch the Beyond the Bag Initiative.
“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 of Corporate Social Responsibility & Philanthropy and Chief Sustainability Officer at CVS Health. “This collaboration with Target, Walmart and other like-minded retailers and innovators allows for collective reach that can be truly impactful.”
The Beyond the Bag Initiative also includes Kroger and Walgreens, and Conservation International and Ocean Conservancy as Environmental Advisory Partners.
For decades, the single-use plastic bag reigned as the dominant design solution for getting a purchase home. But that popularity comes at a great cost. It’s estimated that we use 100 billion single-use plastic bags per year in the U.S. alone and less than 10 percent of these are recycled. While the convenience of the plastic retail bag can’t be disputed, the negative impact – considering its short use (12 minutes, on average) and long lifespan (400+ years by some estimates) – have led to rising consumer concern, advocacy campaigns, and regulatory bans and fees.
The two main challenges with today’s bags stem from raw material usage and material recovery after-use. Today, the majority of single-use plastic bags are made from low-cost, fossil fuel-derived virgin plastic. They are not compostable and although technically recyclable in a separated waste stream with other flexible film plastics, bags generally wind up in the landfill, in the natural environment, or in the wrong recycling stream. Additionally, many customers are unsure of the most sustainable choice, as alternatives made from paper or reusable bags made from thicker plastic (usually polyethylene), cotton, woven polypropylene, polyester, or bioplastic often have a higher environmental footprint.
Calling all innovators: Here’s your chance to help make a difference
Making real, measurable progress will require collaboration and creative ideas from all corners of the globe. With that in mind, the Consortium is kicking off this worldwide search for designs with a challenge that’s open to every creative brain.
Beginning in August, the Consortium will invite all innovators to submit their designs for a new retail bag that’s easy to use and environmentally friendly. The winning ideas will then go through testing and potential piloting. Who knows—maybe your design will be one of the solutions we’re looking for.
Watch www.beyondthebaginitiative.com for more info about the design challenge and how to submit. Until then? Ready … set … brainstorm!
Learn more about how the Target team puts the needs of people, communities and the planet at the heart of how we work today to help build a better tomorrow.