Will CVS, Target and Walmart Pave the Way for More Sustainable Retail Bags?

A new reusable bag pilot may be coming to a CVS, Target or Walmart near you.

The pilot is the crux of the “Beyond the Bag” initiative, launched by the Consortium to Reinvent the Retail Bag (with founding members such as CVS Health, Target, Walmart and Closed Loop Partners) to redesign the single-use plastic bag. In July 2020, the Consortium announced an innovation challenge gathering hundreds of applications from international innovators to create a new option for retail bags.

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In all, $15 million has been committed to the initiative with Dick’s Sporting Goods, The TJX Companies, Inc., The Kroger Co. and more signing on.

Since the announcement of challenge winners in February, progress made is now materializing at stores.

Starting Aug. 2 through Sept. 10, select Beyond the Bag challenge winners will have their innovations tested across nine high-traffic CVS, Target and Walmart stores in Northern California, with progress updates and customer reach to be shared once the project is fully underway.

Four solutions, including Goatote (reusable bag kiosk), Fill it Forward (an app that tracks the use of bags customers already own), ChicoBag (reminds customers to use reusable bags on-site and get rewards for each use) and 99Bridges (Internet of Things-powered app called Mosaic that tracks end-to-end bag use) — will be tested in-store. Customers at participating stores can opt in to test these new solutions.

Calling the pilot an “essential step to test, incorporate customer and retailer feedback, and improve new solutions, exploring pathways to scale,” Kate Daly, managing director of the Center for the Circular Economy at Closed Loop Partners, a partner to the Consortium, said quick iteration is the aim.

The project mirrors a past initiative by The Center called the “NextGen Consortium” which included the commercialization of a more sustainable cup for pilot at McDonald’s and Starbucks.

“At Walmart, we believe climate change requires bold collective action. Minimizing plastic waste, in particular, depends on collaboration and cooperation across the retail industry,” said Jane Ewing, senior vice president of sustainability at Walmart. “These pilots represent a unique and exciting industry-wide commitment towards a more sustainable future, and we are excited to work with the Consortium to Reinvent the Retail Bag and to be a catalyst for meaningful change.”

Expressing excitement for the pilot, Amanda Nusz, senior vice president of corporate responsibility at Target and president of the Target Foundation added “co-creation,” “collaboration” and “continuous iteration” are key.

In addition to the in-store pilots, other winning solutions from the Beyond the Bag Challenge will be piloted and tested in different contexts, including reusable and refillable returns solution Returnity and digital identity solution Eon. Walmart delivery will test the solutions in select markets.

Initial learnings from the current pilot could inform scaled-up options in the future, as The Consortium to Reinvent the Retail Bag looks to evaluate the solutions and initiate future tests, programs and investments.

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