According to Sustainablebrands.com, the US alone uses an estimated 100 billion plastic bags per year, and less than 10 percent are recycled; single-use plastic bags continue to be one of the top 10 items found along beaches and waterways, according to the Ocean Conservancy’s International Coastal Cleanup.
The Beyond the Bag Challenge by Closed Loop Partners sought to identify long-term solutions to reinvent the retail bag. The competition took place in February 2021, when the nine winners of the challenge received a portion of $1 million in prize money and are eligible for additional financial support to support testing, piloting and scaling efforts.
Winners were chosen through a collective process by a panel of 10 subject matter experts alongside the Consortium to Reinvent the Retail Bag’s Founding Partners, Sector Lead Partners, Environmental Advisory Partners and the Center for the Circular Economy at Closed Loop Partners.
The Center for the Circular Economy at Closed Loop Partners has announced the nine winners, whose solutions fall into three categories: Reuse and Refill; Enabling Technology; and Innovative Materials. Launched in July 2020, the Consortium’s Beyond the Bag Initiative is an ambitious, three-year undertaking that aims to identify and scale innovative alternatives to the single-use plastic retail bag. Since its launch, Consortium founding partners CVS Health, Target and Walmart committed $15 million collectively to the collaboration — additional retail partners DICK’S Sporting Goods, Dollar General, The Kroger Co, The TJX Companies, Inc, Ahold Delhaize USA Brands, Albertsons Companies, Hy-Vee, Meijer, Wakefern Food Corp and Walgreens have since signed on.
The winners, according to the different categories, are:
Reuse and refill:
- ChicoBag — offering a new service that enables customers to borrow bags on-site
- Goatote — kiosk system that allows shoppers to access clean, reusable bags anywhere a kiosk is found
- Returnity — reusable shipping bags and boxes for products bought online or through pick-up services
- Eon — an IoT tracking system for understanding how bags are being utilized across the value chain
- Fill It Forward — the company created a tag and app that connects to the reusable bag consumers already own, allowing them to track environmental impact, earn rewards, and help give nutritious food to people in need
- SmartC — an IoT platform that incentivizes shoppers with rewards every time they reuse their shopping bags
- Domtar — developing a new bio-based, recyclable material of 100 percent cellulose fibre, but stretchable and more durable
- PlasticFri — maker of starch-based, compostable bags made from agricultural waste
- Sway — maker of compostable, carbon-negative plastic bags made from seaweed