Retail Brands Band Together To Solve Plastic Bag Crisis With Digital Spin

August 3, 2020 Sarah Cavill

Although eight states and 127 countries have banned or regulated single-use plastic bags, many large retailers believe the necessity of occasionally needing single-use bags requires an inventive, sustainable solution. Enter Beyond The Bag, launched by the Consortium to Reinvent the Retail Bag, which was founded by Walmart, Target and CVS. Additional retailers and environmental groups, including Kroger, Walgreens and Conservation International, also hold partnership and advisory roles. Closed Loop, the group’s managing partner, is an investment firm focused on advancing the circular economy.

According to the Beyond the Bag website, the initiative “aims to reinvent the single-use plastic retail bag, with the goal of identifying, testing and implementing viable design solutions and models that more sustainably serve the purpose of the current retail bag.”

The Beyond The Bag Initiative Is Looking For Ideas 

While most environmentally focused people agree that an ideal world would include shoppers always equipped with their reusable bags, Beyond the Bag believes that’s an unrealistic expectation. The initiative is calling on “inventors, innovators and supply chain and packaging experts” to come up with a better, more sustainable idea to replace the plastic shopping bags readily available in stores today. There are still 100 billion plastic bags used in the U.S each year, and Beyond the Bag believes innovation can provide a realistic alternative. 

Source: Closed Loop Partners

“We have to approach this as an industry,” said Kathleen McLaughlin, Executive Vice President and Chief Sustainability Officer at Walmart. “Walmart’s not going to figure that out on their own, nor is Target, nor is Kroger.” Submissions for plastic bag substitution ideas will be accepted until September 10, and the group with the best alternative idea will move into an accelerator program in which their ideas will be built out with the help of global design firm IDEO.

The Rise Of Digital Grocery Innovations Will Be Considered In Beyond The Bag Solutions

Leaders of Beyond the Bag are quick to point out that this initiative is about more than just inventing a better kind of bag. Many retailers already offer recycling for single-use plastic bags or credit for reusing them, and even reusable bags come with a carbon footprint. Beyond the Bag, particularly with the rise in digital innovations in grocery stores and the increase in grocery delivery during COVID-19, is looking for alternative solutions that get the groceries from point A to point B. The future plastic bag alternative, Beyond the Bag believes, may not be a bag at all. “Hopefully, we’ll have a whole portfolio of ideas, some iterative on the bag, and some being more bold to bring a totally new concept on how we continue to offer a convenient way to transport items that’s simple, easy, joyful and inclusive.”

Brands Concerned With Sustainability And Social Responsibility Appeal To Consumers

According to a study by PSFK, a retail research group, “When asked to choose the most important trait for a brand to have, 58% of Gen Z choose a brand’s purpose, values and mission, making it their number one most important trait.” And, Millennials rank it third most important. Additionally, younger consumers don’t want to pay more for sustainable products, and prefer unfussy, seamless translations. Brands that can leverage inventive and environmentally thoughtful products and services are more likely to find success with younger consumers, and those who value brands that prioritize sustainability. The Beyond the Bag initiative may serve as an example for brands in the future that are looking to harness creativity and find eco- and digital-friendly solutions to everyday problems.

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About the Author

Sarah Cavill

With more than 20 years of writing, editing and reporting experience, Sarah Cavill brings to Digital Media Solutions (DMS) a fine-tuned and diverse set of skills. Her work has been featured in notable publications including The Daily Muse, CBS Local, Techlicious and Glamour magazine. Sarah has a passion for current events and the deep-dive research that goes into the content development and brand identity of DMS Insights. In her role as Senior Marketing Communications Writer, Sarah contributes to the pitching, researching and writing of multiple stories published each week surrounding digital and performance marketing innovations in pop culture, news, social media, branding and advertising.

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