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Closed Loop Partners launches consortium to address retail bags

The Center for the Circular Economy at Closed Loop Partners and retailers CVS Health, Target and Walmart to identify, test and implement alternatives to single-use retail bags.

The Center for the Circular Economy at Closed Loop Partners, New York, has joined with the retailers CVS Health, Target and Walmart, in addition to Kroger and Walgreens, to form the Consortium to Reinvent the Retail Bag. The initiative seeks to reinvent single-use plastic retail bags, which are typically made with low-density polyethylene (LDPE) or linear-LDPE film, by identifying, testing and implementing viable design solutions and models that more sustainably serve the purpose of the current retail bag, according to a news release from Closed Loop Partners. Collectively, consortium partners have committed more than $15 million to launch the Beyond the Bag Initiative.

The three-year consortium invites additional retailers to join.

According to Closed Loop Partners, global risks from climate change, the global pandemic and mounting plastic waste have revealed the vulnerabilities of our current system.

“The status quo has been shaken, presenting a unique opportunity to build back better and reimagine a more resilient and sustainable way of doing business,” says Kate Daly, managing director of the Center for the Circular Economy at Closed Loop Partners. “During challenging times, unexpected and unprecedented collaboration is required, and we’re excited to work with leading retailers like CVS Health, Target, Walmart and others—along with the entire industry—to take effective action.”

The initiative “aims to take a holistic view of the challenge and solutions, aligning consumer convenience and product innovation with the equally important infrastructure for recovery or reuse of any alternatives developed,” Closed Loop Partners says.

The consortium’s Innovation Challenge, launched in partnership with global design firm IDEO, will solicit design solutions to serve the function of today’s retail bag from around the world, with an initial focus on implementation in the United States. Closed Loop Partners says it will launch a Circular Accelerator, develop potential piloting opportunities and aim to make infrastructure investments in support of the development of market-ready solutions.

“We know how important it is to bring our customers along on our sustainability journey, keeping in mind that most are looking for convenience with minimal environmental impact,” says Eileen Howard Boone, senior vice president, Corporate Social Responsibility & Philanthropy, and chief sustainability officer, CVS Health. “This collaboration with Target, Walmart and other like-minded retailers and innovators allows for collective reach that can be truly impactful.”  

“We believe in serving our guests and communities with actions that reduce our footprint on the planet," says Amanda Nusz, vice president of corporate responsibility, Target. “We’re proud to partner with Closed Loop Partners and other leading retailers to take on a challenge facing the entire industry. We welcome others to join us in this collective effort as we aim to design a better solution.”

“By coming together to tackle the problem, we aim to accelerate the pace of innovation and the commercialization of sustainable solutions,” says Kathleen McLaughlin, executive vice president and chief sustainability officer for Walmart. “Through efforts like the Innovation Challenge and the Circular Accelerator, we hope the Beyond the Bag Initiative will surface affordable, practical solutions that meet the needs of customers and reduce plastic waste.”

CVS Health, Target and Walmart, the founding partners of the consortium, are calling on other retail leaders to join the initiative. The Kroger Co. has joined as the Grocery Sector Lead Partner, while Walgreens has joined as a Supporting Partner.

Conservation International and Ocean Conservancy have joined as Environmental Advisory Partners. Closed Loop Partners says they will provide perspective on environmental impacts and solutions throughout the initiative.