CVS Health, Target and Walmart plan to test options to the single-use plastic shopping bag through the Consortium to Reinvent the Retail Bag’s Beyond the Bag Initiative.

The three-year Beyond the Bag Initiative calls on retailers to “think outside the box” to address the global waste issue of plastic shopping bags while upholding consumer convenience. Last August, the consortium launched the global Beyond the Bag Challenge to source solutions — including technology-enabled reuse models, new materials, and software and hardware innovations — to replace today’s plastic bag.

Plans call for challenge winners ChicoBag, Fill it Forward, GOATOTE and 99Bridges to begin pilots at nine CVS Pharmacy, Target and Walmart stores in Northern California. Solutions to be tested include reusable bag models and enabling technologies that help serve customer needs, extend the useful life of retail bags and provide visibility into a bag’s full life cycle.

ChicoBag-Consortium to Reinvent Retail Bag pilot.pngChicoBag’s solution is designed to enable customers to borrow bags on-site, eliminated a common pain point for consumers: remembering your reusable bag. (Photo courtesy of ChicoBag)

“We’re excited to pilot these new sustainable design solutions that can replace the single-use plastic retail bag,” Eileen Howard Boone, senior vice president of corporate social responsibility and philanthropy and chief custainability officer at CVS Health, said in a statement. “Over the last several months, we’ve worked collaboratively with leading retailers and cutting-edge innovators, and we’re thrilled to now be able to bring our customers along on this journey to test these solutions.”

The Consortium to Reinvent the Retail Bag was launched last summer by the Center for the Circular Economy at green investment firm Closed Loop Partners. CVS, Target and Walmart are the consortium’s founding partners.

Closed Loop Partners said Monday that the pilots are slated to run through early fall. Participating stores include CVS, Target and Walmart locations in Mountain View testing GOATOTE; two CVS stores in Palo Alto and one Target store in Redwood City testing ChicoBag and 99Bridges; and CVS and Target stores in Palo Alto and a Walmart store in Santa Clara testing Fill it Forward.

“We envision a retail industry where alternatives to the single-use plastic bag are easy and accessible for all communities. We’re proud to work together toward this goal alongside CVS Health and Walmart, as co-creation is key to our new sustainability strategy Target Forward,” commented Amanda Nusz, senior vice president of corporate responsibility at Target and president of the Target Foundation. “We are thrilled to pilot these winning designs, as we know that collaboration and continuous iteration are integral to developing new potential solutions.”

Goatote kiosk-Consortium to Reinvent Retail Bag pilot.pngGOATOTE kiosks offer consumers access to clean, reusable bags while at the store. (Photo courtesy of GOATOTE)

The pilots will help refine the Beyond the Bag winning solutions based on a range of factors, from technical feasibility to desirability, and will run over a six-week period, Close Loop Partners reported.

“We believe climate change requires bold collective action. Minimizing plastic waste, in particular, depends on collaboration and cooperation across the retail industry,” according to Jane Ewing, senior vice president of sustainability at Walmart. “These pilots represent a unique and exciting industrywide 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.”

Besides the in-store pilots, other winning solutions from the Beyond the Bag Challenge will be piloted and tested in different contexts, Close Loop Partners added. For example, Returnity and Eon will pilot through Walmart delivery in selected markets to test uses from at-home to in store. Also, companies Domtar, PlasticFri and Sway are developing alternative materials to single-use plastic, and their solutions will undergo material performance and recovery testing to optimize their designs, meet consumer and retailer needs, and match the specifications of recycling and composting facilities.

“To permanently eliminate the 100 billion single-use plastic bags currently used every year in the U.S., we are working collaboratively to build retail solutions that better meet customer needs while lessening the impact on the environment. By testing new bag innovations in-store, we gain valuable insights that allow us to iterate quickly and expand to more communities,” explained Kate Daly, managing director of the Center for the Circular Economy at Closed Loop Partners. “Knowing that systems change does not happen overnight, these pilots are an essential step to test, incorporate customer and retailer feedback, and improve new solutions, exploring pathways to scale.”

Other food, drug and mass retail participants in the Consortium to Reinvent the Retail Bag include The Kroger Co. as the grocery sector lead partner and Ahold Delhaize USA, Albertsons Cos., Dollar General, Hy-Vee, Meijer, Wakefern Food Corp. and Walgreens as supporting partners. New York-based Closed Loop Partners serves as managing partner.