Giant US Retailers & Single-Use Plastic Bags

Giant retailers like Walmart and Target are uniting to take on the plastic bag. It's good news but, frankly, should have been started years ago. It's a case of better late than never.

We all know that single-use plastic shopping bags are a big problem. They take decades to break down but nearly 100 billion of them are still used in the US each year. Sadly, fewer than 10 percent of those are recycled - often ending up in landfills because many recyclers can't process them.


Closed Loop Partners’ Center for the Circular Economy is partnering with Walmart and Target to try to tackle the toxic problem. Their $15 million joint Beyond the Bag Initiative will focus on creating solutions that reinvent shopping bags and keep them away from landfills. 


The partnership’s objectives include diverting single-use plastic bags from landfills and scaling solutions that would serve the same function and replace the retail bag, through this three-year partnership. It plans multiple approaches. The first approach focuses on re-imagining the design through an Innovation Challenge with OpenIDEO. That effort, which will begin accepting applications on 3 August, will seek innovative ways to “reinvent” the retail bag.


It’s open to all sorts of solutions from students, scientists and companies of all sizes, because there cannot simply be no one silver bullet solution that will solve the plastic retail bag problem. The European trick of charging for bags has already proven to make a significant difference and would, surely, provide a quick-win. UK data indicates that the 7 main retailers issued around 83% fewer bags once charging was introduced.


Once the search ends, the group will select about a dozen winners to join the Beyond the Bag Circular Business Accelerator, which will involve mentoring, capital investment, testing and piloting. Whichever solutions win will then be scaled up and tested at retail locations across America.


As they continue their journey, the consortium partners share a sense of urgency in addressing the issue of plastic bag waste - that’s why these unlikely collaborators are working together and acting as a collective.


“The nature of bringing competitors together can help reframe the issue beyond short-term fixes and alternatives to long-lasting, systemic solutions that really take a holistic approach from production to use to reuse to recovery,” said Kate Daly, managing director of the Center for the Circular Economy at Closed Loop Partners.


Original source: Greenbiz