Beyond the Bag Consortium Launches Its Largest Reusable Bag Pilots to Date to Drive Reduction of Single-Use Plastic Bags

By Closed Loop Partners

April 19, 2023

CVS Health, Target, other Fortune 500 retailers and local shops catalyze reuse solutions to reduce single-use bags in 150+ stores across U.S. cities

April 19, 2023 – The Consortium to Reinvent the Retail Bag, managed by Closed Loop Partners, today announced its largest piloting initiative to date with two reusable bag pilots in three states, with multiple retailers including Consortium Founding Partners CVS Health and Target, as well as Sector Lead Partners DICK’S Sporting Goods, Dollar General, The Kroger Co., TJX and Ulta Beauty. Building on three years of insights, research and in-market tests, the Consortium is bringing its holistic approach to reduce single-use plastic bag waste to ambitious in-market interventions. The two complementary pilots will take place in over 150 stores, collectively engaging national retailers and local shops to test a range of solutions that aim to support customers in adopting reuse.

Bring Your Own Bag Pilot

The Consortium’s first pilot, the Bring Your Own Bag Pilot, will focus on testing the impact of collective action by retailers in driving broader cultural shifts, where bringing reusable bags becomes the norm wherever customers shop. Participating retailers include seven national brands––CVS Health, Target, DICK’S Sporting Goods, Dollar General, The Kroger Co., TJX and Ulta Beauty. The Consortium is also engaging retailers beyond the Consortium, from mom-and-pop shops to large brands, to reach even more local residents. All participating retailers will test the same solutions from the Consortium’s recently published Playbook––including signage, marketing and customer prompts about reusable bags––in stores across Denver, Colorado; Tucson, Arizona and the surrounding areas.

Returnable Bag Pilot

As a complement to the Bring Your Own Bag Pilot, the Consortium’s second pilot, the Returnable Bag Pilot, will test a new reusable bag solution to serve customers when they forget to bring their own reusable bags to stores. CVS Health and Target, two Founding Partners of the Consortium to Reinvent the Retail Bag, will collaboratively pilot a new ‘returnable bag’ service model across multiple stores, offering customers the opportunity to buy a bag at checkout, to be returned to any participating store to get their $1 deposit back. The bag will then be washed, redistributed and reused by other customers. This service model was built by the Consortium based on insights gathered over the last two years. The Returnable Bag Pilot will take place in New Jersey, where recent legislation banning single-use bags in certain stores underscores a need for reuse solutions that are environmentally sustainable and convenient for customers. Two winners of the Consortium’s Beyond the Bag Innovation Challenge, Returnity and 99Bridges, will provide operational services for the returnable bag system.

“We need to consider a range of needs, contexts and policy landscapes to create a less wasteful future for the retail bag. These two pilots are complementary by design, understanding that a diversity of solutions is needed to effect systems change and mitigate unintended consequences. We are bringing retailers together to advance reuse solutions collectively that support customers and reduce single-use plastic bag waste,” said Kate Daly, Managing Director and Head of the Center for the Circular Economy at Closed Loop Partners. “We look forward to piloting at this large scale, engaging multiple retailers both in and beyond the Consortium to generate greater industry engagement and ecosystem impact.”

“As we expand these reusable bag solutions across CVS Pharmacy locations and learn about consumer behaviors, we continue to see the power in collective retail action,” said Sheryl Burke, SVP of Corporate Social Responsibility and Chief Sustainability Officer at CVS Health. “With everyone’s drive, dedication and collaboration, we will continue making a lasting impact on creating a healthier world today and for future generations.”

“We’re proud to work with our guests, communities, and partners like the Consortium to Reinvent the Retail Bag toward co-creating an equitable, regenerative future together,” said Amanda Nusz, senior vice president of corporate responsibility at Target. “Through our collective efforts, these pilots will offer valuable insights for enhancing circular capabilities and providing accessible alternatives to the single-use plastic bag for all.”

The Returnable Bag Pilot will run from April to July 2023, while the Bring Your Own Bag Pilot will be active from May to July 2023. Together, the two pilots paint a potential future where complementary reuse approaches work in parallel to reduce single-use plastic bag waste, focusing on increasing the use of existing reusable bags in the market, as well as creating solutions for when customers forget their own reusable bag. By testing in different markets, these pilots can also inform the viability of solutions across various markets, and inform potential for scale.

These pilots are a key step in the Consortium to Reinvent the Retail Bag’s work since its launch in 2020 to reimagine the retail bag in stores and across emerging channels, such as buy-online-and-pickup-in-store and local delivery. This work builds on the Consortium’s progress in identifying innovative solutions, conducting customer research, analyzing policy and infrastructure needs and engaging diverse stakeholders. Moving forward, the Consortium will continue to conduct deep analysis, and share key insights with the broader industry to help accelerate systems change. Building a more sustainable future for the retail industry won’t happen overnight; advancing collaboration and activating the testing required to effectively meet customer needs can impact solutions as the industry addresses complex waste challenges.

If you are interested in learning more about the pilots, please visit our website here.


About the Center for the Circular Economy at Closed Loop Partners

The Center for the Circular Economy at Closed Loop Partners unites competitors to tackle complex material challenges and to implement systemic change that advances the circular economy. Adept at navigating every step in the value chain, Closed Loop Partners brings together designers, manufacturers, recovery systems operators, trade organizations, municipalities, policymakers and NGOs to create scalable innovations that target big system problems.

The Center currently manages three consortia: the NextGen Consortium, to advance solutions that can help address single-use foodservice packaging waste; the Consortium to Reinvent the Retail Bag to identify, test and scale solutions that can help address single-use plastic bag waste; and the Composting Consortium, to pilot industry-wide solutions and build a roadmap for investment in technologies and


infrastructure that enable the recovery of compostable food packaging and food scraps. Learn more about the Center’s work here.

About the Consortium to Reinvent the Retail Bag

The Beyond the Bag Initiative, launched by the Consortium to Reinvent the Retail Bag, aims to identify, pilot and implement viable design solutions and models that more sustainably serve the purpose of the current retail bag. Closed Loop Partners’ Center for the Circular Economy launched the initiative with Founding Partners CVS Health, Target and Walmart. The Kroger Co. joined as Grocery Sector Lead Partner, DICK’S Sporting Goods joined as Sports & Outdoors Sector Lead Partner, Dollar General as Value Sector Lead Partner, TJX as Apparel & Home Goods Sector Lead Partner, and Ulta Beauty as Beauty Sector Lead Partner. Ahold Delhaize USA companies, Albertsons Companies, H-E-B, Hy-Vee, Meijer, Wakefern Food Corp., and Walgreens are Supporting Partners, and Conservation International and Ocean Conservancy serve as Environmental Advisory Partners. Learn more about the Consortium here.