Join Walmart, Others On our Journey to Reinvent the Plastic Bag

By Anna Vinogradova, Director, Sustainability
Jul 21, 2020 12:45 PM ET
Article

Among the adages about invention is one that says we must invent for the world we want to see – not the one we’re living in. At Walmart, we try and imagine a better future every day, and we invite the innovators of the world with us. Now, we’re considering a big question: What does a world look like beyond the retail shopping bag?

A shopping bag is at the center of the final interaction of almost every in-store purchase – be that your weekly grocery trip, a quick milk run or back-to-school shopping. While the convenience of the plastic retail bag cannot be disputed, the average working life of one of these bags is only 12 minutes. It’s estimated that 100 billion plastic bags are being used annually in the U.S. alone, and less than 10 percent of them are recycled. Retailers are looking for alternative solutions: however, these alternatives have yet to garner widespread use by the public, and many still have significant environmental impacts.

Above and Beyond

Because Walmart has set an aspirational zero waste goal, we have joined the “Beyond the Bag” initiative as a Founding Partner to accelerate innovation for much-needed solutions. With funding from Walmart, Target and CVS Health, this three-year initiative is led by Closed Loop Partners with the goal of identifying, testing and implementing viable design solutions and models that more sustainably serve the purpose of the current retail bag. Collectively, Founding Partners have committed $15 million to launch the Beyond the Bag Initiative.

Creating large-scale change to address a global waste challenge simply can’t happen in a vacuum. It calls for commitment and cooperation from across the industry to drive change through inventive, even transformational thinking.

Join the Innovation Challenge

To help meet the moment, we’re searching for innovative design solutions to take the place of today’s retail bag. We’re inviting inventors and innovators from around the world to submit their solutions to the Beyond the Bag Challenge, which will be launched in partnership with global design firm IDEO on August 3. The Challenge invites innovators, suppliers, designers and problem-solvers to submit their ideas for game-changing sustainable bag solutions, with an initial focus on implementation in the United States.

If you have an idea or a solution for an environmentally-friendly single-use bag, retail bag alternatives, reusable models or an altogether new delivery system, please submit your idea through the Beyond the Bag Challenge's website until September 10. The challenge aims to identify potential solutions that meet diverse customer and regional needs in a more sustainable way.

Closed Loop Partners will work with winning solutions to develop potential piloting opportunities and bring their design toward a reality. By working as a collective, we are hopeful we can build a better future. And we invite others across the bag value chain, including retailers, suppliers, materials recovery facilities, municipalities, advocacy groups and more, who share that hope to join us in seeking solutions.