Customer using a reusable tote bag in a store with the 'Beyond the bag' logo on it
Customer using a reusable tote bag in a store with the 'Beyond the bag' logo on it
Client
Closed Loop Partners
OFFER
Strategic Futures
Creative Capabilities
INDUSTRY
Climate
Consumer Products & Retail
< Work

Beyond the Bag

A coalition of retail leaders join forces to address single-use plastic-bag waste.

In 2020, Closed Loop Partners, a circular-economy-focused investment firm and innovation center, convened the Consortium to Reinvent the Retail Bag with a group of America’s largest chains. IDEO joined as an innovation partner, helping to source nine promising startups in the Beyond the Bag challenge. The consortium was built for action, allowing winning startups to pilot their products and programs in the wilds of major retail. The multi-year collaboration shows what’s possible with unprecedented partnerships. Because a waste-free future needs to be designed by everyone.

Client
Closed Loop Partners
PROGRESS

9 stores

tested solutions across Northern California

Millions of dollars

raised BY Two startups
People testing a range of tote bags for durability
IDEO team testing the durability of reusable tote bags

A hundred billion plastic bags are used in the U.S. every year, and less than 10% of them are recycled.

Every year, plastic retail bags are among the top ten items found on beaches and waterways worldwide.

America’s leading retailers share a common goal—doing less harm to the planet.

The systemic challenges standing in the way require a bold new approach, and no single company can solve them alone. So Closed Loop Partners convened a group consisting of founding partners CVS Health, Target, and Walmart, along with 12 other leading retailers. As the innovation partner, IDEO helped launch a global search for breakthrough sustainable ideas that yielded more than 450 submissions from startups and entrepreneurs to reinvent the single-use plastic retail bag, with nine finalists entering a six-month accelerator.

Goatote reusable bag kiosk in a store

New alternatives ranged from biodegradable solutions to systems that kept reusable bags in rotation. IDEO teams not only facilitated collaboration between startups and sustainability leads from partner retailers, but also provided a boost of additional expertise from industrial, data, and business designers. In a matter of months, teams were able to launch prototypes in select CVS Health, Target, and Walmart stores in California and New Jersey.

Everyone involved in the consortium knew that replacing single-use plastic retail bags is a problem that won’t be solved quickly or easily. But the Beyond the Bag challenge helped them learn that designing for the policy and infrastructure of tomorrow requires tangible steps, taken together, today.

America’s leading retailers share a common goal—doing less harm to the planet.

The systemic challenges standing in the way require a bold new approach, and no single company can solve them alone. So Closed Loop Partners convened a group consisting of founding partners CVS Health, Target, and Walmart, along with 12 other leading retailers. As the innovation partner, IDEO helped launch a global search for breakthrough sustainable ideas that yielded more than 450 submissions from startups and entrepreneurs to reinvent the single-use plastic retail bag, with nine finalists entering a six-month accelerator.

Goatote reusable bag kiosk in a store

New alternatives ranged from biodegradable solutions to systems that kept reusable bags in rotation. IDEO teams not only facilitated collaboration between startups and sustainability leads from partner retailers, but also provided a boost of additional expertise from industrial, data, and business designers. In a matter of months, teams were able to launch prototypes in select CVS Health, Target, and Walmart stores in California and New Jersey.

Everyone involved in the consortium knew that replacing single-use plastic retail bags is a problem that won’t be solved quickly or easily. But the Beyond the Bag challenge helped them learn that designing for the policy and infrastructure of tomorrow requires tangible steps, taken together, today.

Customer removing a reusable tote bag from the Goatote kiosk
Why should paper or plastic be the only choice we have? A Walmart customer checks out a Goatote reusable bag that can be returned to various retailers at multiple locations.
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“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.”

Kate Daly
Managing Director, Center for the Circular Economy at Closed Loop Partners
Man in a suit walking out of a store carrying a 'Beyond the bag' tote
PRESS LINKS
Fast Company
 >
2022 World Changing Ideas, Honorable Mention
Forbes
 >
Winning Solutions to Single-Use Plastic Bags Are Being Tested by Some Major Retailers
Sustainable Brands
 >
CVS Health, Target, Walmart Piloting Alternative Bag Solutions to Combat Plastic Waste
Fast Company
 >
Walmart, Target, CVS team up to reinvent single-use plastic bags