Research and analysis

A New Way Home

Assessing the design opportunities to replace today’s single-use plastic retail bag

For decades, the single-use plastic bag reigned as the dominant design solution for one of the most common human activities: getting a purchase home. But that popularity comes at a great cost; almost all plastic bags end up in a landfill, are incinerated, or leak into the environment as trash. Together, let’s explore how we got to where we are today and what’s next?

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The Bag Problem Today

The two main challenges with today’s bags stem from raw material usage and material recovery after-use. Today, the majority of single-use plastic bags are made from low-cost, fossil fuel-derived virgin plastic. They are not compostable and although technically recyclable, very few complete the journey to a recycling facility.

The Five Most Common Bags Used Today

While single-use retail plastic bags are the industry standard, consumers are increasingly trying to make eco-friendly bag choices.  But today’s alternatives carry their own set of drawbacks. From production through end of life, no product presently existing at scale offers a tenable, long-term solution.


A Shifting Retail Reality

The context of retail bags is changing on every level. Consumer and regulatory reactions against single-use plastic bags aren’t surprising. Consumers want something better and regulation in this arena is rapidly evolving, with diverse forms of government taxes, fees, or outright bans on single-use plastic bags across the globe. Change is coming, opening up opportunities for design.


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