Can a reinvented bag revamp sustainable retail?
Single-use plastic has gone out of fashion in the U.S. Spurred by a newfound consumer focus on environmentalism, retailers are abandoning them and some municipalities are instituting bans. Finding an adequate, convenient replacement for throwaway grocery bags, however, is easier said than done, and some of the biggest names in the retail industry are putting their weight behind an initiative to create one.
An organization called The Consortium to Reinvent the Retail Bag, which counts CVS, Walmart, Target and Closed Loop Partners among its members, launched an innovation challenge in July, 2020 to create a reusable bag, according to Yahoo! Life. In February, the group chose contest winners and, beginning in early August, will pilot four different reusable bag solutions at nine high-traffic CVS, Target and Walmart stores in Northern California. The solutions being piloted are:
- Goatote: an in-store kiosk for reusable bags;
- Fill it Forward: a reuse tracking app for reusable bags;
- ChicoBag: A solution that reminds customers to reuse bags and gives rewards for using them;
- 99Bridges: an app that tracks end-to-end bag usage.
While promoting and/or incentivizing in-store bag reuse is at the heart of all of these solutions, the consortium is also supporting other types of plastic bag alternatives.
Packaging companies Domtar, PlasticFri and Sway are working on alternative materials for bags to replace plastic which will, as part of the initiative, be tested to meet the needs of both customers and recycling/composting facilities, according to a press release.
Bags by circular commerce startups Returnity and Eon will be piloted through Walmart delivery.
While plastic bag bans grew common in major U.S. cities in the years leading up to the novel coronavirus pandemic, single-use plastics quickly came back into circulation beginning in March 2020. Concerns over potential viral transmission on the surfaces of reusable grocery bags were eventually deemed unfounded, but single-use plastic bags remained available in grocery stores to facilitate quicker shopping trips.
With the apparent waning of the pandemic in late 2020, states like New Jersey began exploring the reintroduction of strict regulations against single-use plastic bags.
- Will CVS, Target and Walmart Pave the Way for More Sustainable Retail Bags? – Yahoo! Life
- CVS Health, Target & Walmart Together Launch In-store Pilots & Tests of New Design Solutions to Combat Plastic Waste – Closed Loop Partners
- New Jersey hops back on the bag ban bandwagon – RetailWire
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Do you think any of the options presented in this competition offer a truly convenient alternative to the single use plastic bag? What do you think is the best way to reduce or eliminate the use of single-use plastic bags without compromising convenience to customers?