A new collaboration co-ordinated by investment firm Closed Loop Partners with support from the design studio Ideo sees Walmart, Target, and CVS working together to try to find a solution to the problem of single-use plastic bags, which have seen a rise in use since the coronavirus pandemic swept the globe.
The project, called the Beyond the Bag Initiative, is part of a plan to reinvent single-use plastic bags. With $15 million in promised investments, the partners are calling for entrepreneurs and inventors to come up with new ideas to replace plastic bags, which form a large part of the plastic waste that ends up in our oceans.
Approaching the problem as an industry
According to Closed Loop Partners, over 100 million single-use plastic bags are used in the U.S. every year. They are used, on average, for 12 minutes each, but they take up to 100 years to decompose. What's more, less than 10 percent of single-use plastic bags are recycled.
“We have to approach this as an industry,” Kathleen McLaughlin, executive vice president and chief sustainability officer at Walmart told FastCompany. “Walmart’s not going to figure that out on their own, nor is Target, nor is Kroger.”
Once presented, the most promising ideas for an alternative to single-use plastic bags will enter a product accelerator that will see their production fast-tracked into a market of the world's biggest retailers.
'A classic design challenge'
“What is needed is a way to transport items,” Amanda Nusz, president of the Target Foundation explains. “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.”
Closed Loop Partners has previously worked with the likes of McDonald’s and Starbucks to develop an eco-friendly alternative to the single-use soft drink cup.
Kathleen McLaughlin says the issue is a classic design challenge: "it’s not just [a challenge of] ‘please redesign this bag,’ but getting things from point A to point B," she explains.
Whichever ideas are picked by the initiative will be developed over the course of three years. We look forward to seeing some great ideas for overhauling an industry that currently has an overreliance on single-use plastic bags.