Circular economy investment initiative Closed Loop Partners announced the formation of a consortium with founding partners Walmart, Target and CVS Health, along with Kroger and Walgreens to reinvent the single-use plastic retail bag. The new “Beyond the Bag” initiative aims to identify, test and implement viable design solutions and models that more sustainably serve the purpose of the current retail bag.

According to the consortium, over 100 billion single-use plastic retail bags are used in the U.S. every year, and less than 10 percent of these are recycled. The average bag has a lifespan of up 1,000 years, yet is used for only approximately 12 minutes. Every year, plastic retail bags are among the top 10 items found on beaches and waterways worldwide. Despite this, the retail industry has yet to find an acceptable substitute for the traditional single-use plastic bag, with current alternative designs either lacking widespread adoption and support, or still having significant environmental impact.

The consortium has received commitments of $15 million from the partners, and is currently set to be a 3-year initiative. The partners announced they would welcome additional retailers to join the initiative.

The consortium stated that it will solicit innovative design solutions from around the world, with an initial focus on implementation in the United States. The consortium has launched a global “Innovation Challenge,” in partnership with global design firm IDEO, inviting innovators, suppliers, designers and problem-solvers to submit their ideas for game-changing sustainable bag solutions.

Closed Loop Partners announced it will launch a Circular Accelerator, develop potential piloting opportunities and will aim to make infrastructure investments in support of the development of market-ready solutions.

Kate Daly, Managing Director of the Center for the Circular Economy at Closed Loop Partners, said:

“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. 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.”

Eileen Howard Boone, SVP, Corporate Social Responsibility & Philanthropy and Chief Sustainability Officer, CVS Health, said:

“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. This collaboration with Target, Walmart and other like-minded retailers and innovators allows for collective reach that can be truly impactful.”  

Amanda Nusz, Vice President of Corporate Responsibility, Target, said:

“We believe in serving our guests and communities with actions that reduce our footprint on the planet. We’re proud to partner with Closed Loop Partners and other leading retailers to take on a challenge facing the entire industry. We welcome others to join us in this collective effort as we aim to design a better solution.”

Kathleen McLaughlin, Executive Vice President and Chief Sustainability Officer for Walmart, said:

“By coming together to tackle the problem, we aim to accelerate the pace of innovation and the commercialization of sustainable solutions. 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.”