Reuse Series

Making Reuse an Everyday Reality: 3 Things We Must Consider Before Scale 

By

September 06, 2023

Reuse is now at a critical stage of development. A plethora of innovation has expanded the realm of possibilities, but what will it take to get to the point of industry-scale disruption?

Earlier this year, seven winners of the highly anticipated 2023 Reusies were announced on stage at GreenBiz’s Circularity23 Conference in Seattle. The winners encompassed corporate and community initiatives, and B2B and B2C reuse innovations across food & beverage, consumer packaged goods and fashion & apparel. Together, they provided a window into the best and brightest developments in the reuse space. Indeed, hundreds of start-ups and large corporates are working on making reuse an everyday reality for consumers, with applications as far-ranging as closed system solutions for corporate campuses and events, to software companies supporting reuse-as-a-service, and refill applications in retail or in commercial, industrial and event spaces. The potential for reuse to reduce waste has catalyzed much innovation and brought conversations to a fever pitch. 

Reuse is now at a critical stage of development. A plethora of innovation has expanded the realm of possibilities, but what will it take to get to the point of industry-scale disruption? Making reuse a far-reaching and everyday reality––where reusable items are consistently and efficiently reused to make a significant difference and reduce environmental impact––requires continued testing, collaboration across the value chain, investment and supportive policy.

At Closed Loop Partners, reuse systems are an integral part of our vision of a transition away from the take-make-waste economy and toward a circular economy. When products that have historically been single-use are able to be used two, five, ten or one hundred times, and the proper recovery infrastructure is in place for their eventual end-of-life, that can make a meaningful difference on reducing valuable materials sent to landfill––and on the embodied carbon, water and materials required to produce the item in the first place. 

But to get to this next horizon, a number of factors must be considered to ensure that reuse does not result in unintended consequences and instead serves a truly circular economy: 

1. Closed or semi-closed reuse systems are a key starting point, especially at early stages of adoption. On-premise reuse unlocks higher return rates which can make reuse systems profitable––or at least breakeven. In open systems, as consumers use and dispose products away from point of adoption, more complex collection networks and communication strategies are needed to drive returns. For this reason, closed systems can operate with lower upfront capital expenditures and lower recurring operating expenditures until the time at which consumer behavior has shifted to be more amenable to open systems (see #3!). 

 

2. Reuse is a hardware-first business, and requires capital and collaborations to build localized infrastructure––including collection, sorting and washing. There continues to be a shortage of washing infrastructure needed for reuse solutions, and traditional waste management players are not currently set up for the type of collection and sorting needed for reusable products that are intended to stay in circulation for more than one use. Many software-only solutions still require partnerships with washers and logistics providers. There is an opportunity for founders, corporates and municipal governments to build out these partnerships to enable reuse and share in the funding that will be required to build this new infrastructure.
 

3. Broad consumer adoption starts with meeting customers where they are today. There are still many customers that have yet to be onboarded into the reuse culture. As we’ve seen in our work through the Beyond the Bag Consortium and the NextGen Consortium, we need to design solutions with current behaviors in mind and support customers as they build new habits. Advancing reuse won’t happen overnight; cross-industry and cross-company collaboration, a range of solutions, clear messaging and consistent regulatory frameworks are required to effectively support consumers in adopting reuse within their communities, as the industry addresses complex waste challenges. Importantly, in-market testing plays a key role in unlocking what works effectively in the market and meets customer needs. Today’s market is complex, with diverse customer demographics and shopping habits, different operations across retailers, a range of reuse packaging materials and more that need to be considered.  

We see experimentation as a critical precedent to scale. Reuse is no simple feat, and testing market fit and operation alignment is an important step to expand reuse responsibly and mitigate unintended consequences that can happen without a measured examination of new systems. But isolated, small-scale experiments will not get us there. Closed Loop Partners runs multi-brand reuse tests through its Center for the Circular Economy to identify tactics that are proven and ready to scale, as well as models that require further tweaking and iteration to deliver the expected environmental and financial outcomes. While we work to scale proven solutions, we continue to de-risk systems that need refinement. Our in-field deployments intentionally mimic large-scale, cross-brand implementation, but in a controlled manner. The insights and data gleaned from these tests are key stepping stones to new rounds of implementation and scale. Most recently, the Beyond the Bag Consortium’s largest multi-brand reusable bag pilots tested a range of reuse solutions to understand what it will take to effectively drive reduction of single-use plastic bags. Next year, the NextGen Consortium will go back into market to test the viability of reusable cup systems across multiple brands. These tests unlock important insights on what it will take to build a culture of reuse and will serve as the foundation for identifying scalable initiatives. 

With all these developments, we believe we’ll get there. There are tremendous tailwinds supporting the development of reuse and a multitude of communities, innovators and corporations committed to seeing the shift through. To do so, the next five years are critical to pivot from bespoke solutions to shared frameworks, from ad hoc consumer engagement to a consistent drumbeat, and from in market tests to truly scaled solutions. We are excited to be working to advance the transition from innovation to scaled solutions that can replace single-use. Join us! 

This article represents perspectives from across Closed Loop Partners, including the Center for the Circular Economy and Closed Loop Capital Management. Special thanks to Kate Daly, Carol Lobel, Danielle Joseph, Aly Bryan and Anne-Marie Kaluz for sharing their thoughts for this piece. 

Reuse Series

The Most Sustainable Bag Is Likely the One You Already Own: 5 Things YOU Can Do to Reduce the Need for Single-Use Plastic Bags

By Sarah Pamplona Santos

July 19, 2023

How often do you get to the checkout counter only to realize you’ve left your reusable bags at home or in the car? It’s happened to all of us, including me.

Don’t be that person stashing plastic bags until your drawer begins to overflow. In addition to going bagless for quick shopping trips, here are 5 tips for remembering to bring your own bag, so YOU can reduce the need for single-use-plastic bags:

  1. Make it visible. Write “bring bags” at the top of your grocery list and leave bags in a basket near your front door or hanging on the doorknob, so you don’t forget them as you are leaving the house.
  2. Make it available. Always keep a few bags in your car for spontaneous shopping trips.
  3. Make it essential. Place an important item in the bag, like your phone, keys or wallet, so you won’t forget it.

4. Make it personal. Purchase reusable bags you actually like, so you’ll be more inclined to carry them with you.

Why is this so important? Every year, 100 billion single-use plastic bags are used annually in the U.S., and its estimated fewer than 10% of them are recycled.

While the convenience of the single-use plastic retail bag can’t be disputed, the negative impact — considering its short use (12 minutes, on average) and long estimated lifespan — has created an untenable situation that is contributing to a mounting global waste crisis. Plastics can now be found in the deepest depth of the ocean, the top of Mount Everest, and on both polar ice caps.

Reducing the number of single-use plastic bags retailers use across their stores can make a tremendous difference. Even a 1% bag reduction would have a substantial impact on our global waste footprint – equivalent to 1 billion fewer bags used and discarded across the U.S.

If you’re already regularly using reusable bags, you are not alone! Learn more about our pilots in Denver and Tucson where 150+ retailers are working together to help all of us reinforce the habit of bringing our bags. Additionally, check out our new playbook full of solutions retailers can implement today to get teams and customers on board with reducing single-use plastic bags and encourage shoppers to reuse their own bags.

While there’s a lot retailers can do; remember, we’re all in this together and YOU can make a difference by reducing the need for single-use plastic bags.

Dollar Tree and Family Dollar Join the Beyond the Bag Consortium

By

June 05, 2023

The retailer aims to reduce dependency on single-use plastic bags as a Supporting Partner in the Consortium

This May, Dollar Tree, Inc. announced its participation in the Consortium to Reinvent the Retail Bag as a Supporting Partner, alongside other leading retailers committed to reducing single-use plastic bag waste. The Consortium, managed by Closed Loop Partners, convenes leading retailers aiming to identify, test and implement viable design models to create a system that serves the function of the current retail bag, providing customers with convenient, accessible and environmentally-sound solutions. Dollar Tree and Family Dollar’s commitment to the Consortium supports their mission to make sure shoppers have the things they need in their everyday lives, and to create an experience that is uniquely convenient and affordable––while also helping reduce waste in the process.

By advancing and testing innovative solutions to reinvent the retail bag and reduce single-use plastic waste with the Consortium, Dollar Tree and Family Dollar are helping more communities gain access to less wasteful ways to bring goods home. The Fortune 200 company continues to make steps to reduce its environmental footprint, and this partnership in the Consortium is another key step toward its goals.

As a Consortium partner, Dollar Tree, Inc. will participate in the Consortium’s ‘Bring Your Own Bag’ Pilot in select cities to encourage customers to shop with reusable bags more frequently. The program also includes test strategies, such as signage, marketing and customer prompts to reinforce shopper behavior and ultimately reduce dependence on single-use plastic bags.

“At Dollar Tree and Family Dollar, we are working to ensure we play a responsible role in the communities we serve, as we bring more value and convenience to our customers,” says Jennifer Silberman, Chief Sustainability Officer of Dollar Tree. “A key part of this is ensuring that we are reducing our waste and environmental impact across our stores. We look forward to our partnership with the Beyond the Bag Consortium, as we work together to identify more sustainable and accessible solutions that serve the function of the current retail bag and reduce plastic waste.”

“Dollar Tree and Family Dollar’s participation as a Supporting Partner in the Beyond the Bag Consortium is another key milestone for expanding our collective impact,” said Kate Daly, Head of the Center for the Circular Economy at Closed Loop Partners. “Collaboration across sectors is a critical part of this effort. Their partnership not only further moves the needle across the retail industry, but will also increase access to less wasteful solutions to bring goods home in more communities across the United States.”

 

Leading Retailers and Local Shops Join Forces in Beyond the Bag’s ‘Bring Your Own Bag’ Pilot, Testing Reuse Solutions Across 150+ Stores in Denver and Tucson

By

May 01, 2023

Beyond the Bag’s multi-city pilot tests whether collective retailer action can support more customers in bringing their own reusable bags to stores and advance a broader reuse culture

May 1, 2023 – National retailers and local mom-and-pop shops across Denver, CO and Tucson, AZ join forces in the new ‘Bring Your Own Bag’ Pilot, a first-of-its-kind initiative launched by the Consortium to Reinvent the Retail Bag, managed by Closed Loop Partners. Many national brands in the U.S., including Consortium partners CVS Health; Target; DICK’S Sporting Goods; Dollar General; The Kroger Co., through local King Soopers & Fry’s stores; TJX, through local T.J. Maxx, Marshalls and HomeGoods stores; and Ulta Beauty, will simultaneously test bag reduction solutions alongside local mom-and-pop shops to determine whether collective retailer action can drive a broader cultural shift, where bringing your own reusable bag becomes the norm wherever customers shop.

While reusable bags are one of the most adopted reusable products today, research from the Consortium to Reinvent the Retail Bag shows a lack of consistency in use. This pilot aims to reinforce the behavior at scale––supporting customers to remember bags more frequently and to reimagine where they could bring said bags, beyond just the grocery store. Participating retailers will test the same bag reduction strategies found in the Consortium’s Playbook––including signage, marketing and customer prompts about reusable bags––in, near and outside over 150 stores in Denver, Tucson and the surrounding metro areas.

This pilot to reduce single-use plastic waste is taking place at a critical time. Today, it is estimated that 100 billion plastic bags are used annually in the U.S. and fewer than 10% are recycled. Resource limits, supply chain disruption and plastic pollution increase the urgency to move from a take-make-waste economic system and “disposable” culture to a more circular economy where materials are shared and reused. Reducing single-use bags across retailers can make a tremendous difference. Even a 1% bag reduction has a significant impact on our waste footprint––it is equivalent to 1 billion fewer bags used and discarded in the U.S. Empowering customers to bring their own bag plays a key role in single-use bag reduction.

The Bring Your Own Bag Pilot will run from May 1 to July 30, 2023 and is informed by the work of the Consortium to Reinvent the Retail Bag over the past three years, including hundreds of innovations evaluated, multiple solutions tested, and thousands of customers and retail staff surveyed. Based on pilot results, the Consortium will explore scaling these low-cost, easy to implement strategies, catalyzing a national cultural shift around reuse.

If you are interested in learning more about the pilot, or if you are a retailer interested in participating, please visit our website here.

“The most sustainable bag is often the one we already own. Retailers coming together to support customers in bringing their own reusable bag whenever and wherever they shop is a key step to reducing single-use plastic waste,” said Kate Daly, Head of the Center for the Circular Economy at Closed Loop Partners. “This pilot brings to life the Beyond the Bag Consortium’s collaborative, holistic approach to addressing an urgent plastic waste challenge, and we look forward to seeing the impact of this effort at scale.”

“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 are hopeful these small local steps can lead to greater progress. If we are successful, this multi-city pilot program will provide a model that retailers can scale in other geographies, realizing near-term environmental impact and cost-savings,” said Denine Torr, Dollar General’s vice president of corporate social responsibility and philanthropy.

“We all need to work together to create healthier, thriving communities across the country. This pilot is another opportunity to engage our customers directly as we work to reduce waste,” said Denise Osterhues, Senior Director, Sustainability and Social Impact from The Kroger Co.

“When it comes to finding alternatives to single-use plastic bags, our team is committed to co-creating accessible solutions that bring everyone to the table,” said Amanda Nusz, senior vice president of corporate responsibility at Target. “We’re thrilled to participate in this pilot alongside our consortium partners to explore new ways of encouraging broader reusable bag use by our guests and communities.”

“We are pleased to participate in Closed Loop Partners’ innovative campaign, and to collaborate with so many other retailers in support of the reduction of the waste created by single-use bags. This campaign aligns with our ongoing corporate responsibility and sustainability efforts, and is anchored by our mission to deliver great value to our customers every day while pursuing initiatives that are environmentally responsible and smart for our business,” said Brenna Zimmer, Vice President, Sustainability at TJX.

“As the nation’s largest beauty retailer, we understand our role and responsibility to do what’s right for our guests and our world. The Ulta Beauty teams in these markets are excited to pilot these bag reduction strategies alongside our retail peers. Working together helps lay the foundation for a future where reuse is the norm and together, we can move the industry forward at scale,” said Kristin Wolf, Ulta Beauty’s Senior Vice President of Enterprise Strategy and Transformation.

“We are thrilled to see this innovative campaign running in our city, which will complement Denver’s existing fee on disposable bags. This approach will build awareness and gives customers more opportunities to build the habit of bringing their own bag,” said Grace Rink, Denver’s Chief Climate Officer. “Together we can reduce waste, prevent litter, and protect our rivers and streams.”

“I am grateful to all of the Tucson retailers who are participating in this pilot campaign,” said Tucson Mayor Regina Romero. “Tucsonans and businesses care deeply about our desert environment. Bringing your own reusable bag when shopping reduces the need for single-use plastic bags, helps us advance our goal of reaching Zero Waste by 2050, and keeps our city clean.”

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.

Contact: [email protected]

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.

Closed Loop Partners Releases Playbook of Tangible Single-Use Plastic Bag Reduction Solutions for Retailers

By Closed Loop Partners

March 14, 2023

Playbook highlights tried and tested solutions from partners in the Consortium to Reinvent the Retail Bag that can drive near-term, positive environmental impact and cost savings

NEW YORK, March 14, 2023 — Closed Loop Partners’ Center for the Circular Economy and its Consortium to Reinvent the Retail Bag released a new playbook to provide near-term single-use bag reduction wins that can be implemented by any retailer–– from small local stores to large national brands. The resource highlights effective solutions to reduce the number of bags needed by retailers and encourage the use of reusable bags customers already have at home. Key insights from the playbook are based on research, interviews, surveys and learnings from 17 of the world’s leading retailers across four key categories: communications, employee training, bag and fixture design, and customer incentives.

The playbook highlights 25 strategies across these four categories that cater to retailers who are at different stages of their journey. These strategies include detailed guidance on how best to prompt customers to bring their own bags, where to place reusable bags, items retailers can skip bagging, which customer incentives can be deployed and other strategies. The playbook insights are the product of a first-of-its-kind collaboration among Closed Loop Partners and many of the world’s leading retailers, including 14 retail partners in the Consortium to Reinvent the Retail Bag and three external retailers. Experts from Closed Loop Partners led the creation of the playbook, supported by retail consultancy, McMillanDoolittle, who performed quantitative and qualitative surveys and deep-dive interviews with retailers, supplemented with secondary research and analysis.

Reducing the number of single-use bags that retailers use across their stores can make a tremendous difference. Even a 1% bag reduction has a significant impact on our global waste footprint––in the U.S., that is equivalent to 1 billion fewer bags used and discarded. Beyond driving progress toward sustainability goals, using fewer single-use bags can also help retailers reduce costs, address challenges in stocking bags, engage employees, support customers, and build brand reputation and loyalty.

“Our new playbook walks retailers through strategies they can implement today to get teams and customers on board with reducing single-use bags in stores and encourage shoppers to reuse their own bags,” said Kate Daly, Managing Director of the Center for the Circular Economy at Closed Loop Partners. “This tool is for retailers who are looking for quick wins and those seeking innovative, new approaches. We hope these insights serve as an inspiration to retailers looking to reduce their plastic footprint and deploy bag reduction solutions.”

The Consortium to Reinvent the Retail Bag has been working to reimagine the retail bag in the store and across emerging channels like local delivery since its launch in 2020. The last three years have shown significant progress––growing from five retail partners to 15, and deploying more than 6,000 iterative tests, surveys and pilots across markets to help accelerate learnings and the development of sustainable bag solutions. This year, the Consortium will go back into market on a larger scale, testing different complementary strategies to reduce single-use bags. This work will build on the Consortium’s different workstreams––innovation, customer research, policy and infrastructure––and efforts to date. There is no silver bullet to addressing a global plastics waste challenge, and the diverse in-market efforts represent the multi-pronged holistic approach of the Consortium.

In Spring 2023, Consortium partners will test multiple strategies from the Playbook simultaneously in two cities in Arizona and Colorado, launching signage, marketing and customer prompts across stores. The goal of these tests is to enable a broader cultural shift towards customers bringing their own reusable bags from home. The Consortium is inviting other retailers––from mom-and-pop shops to large brands––to join and test the same prompts, signage and marketing materials in order to have the broadest reach with customers and to create ecosystem-wide impact.

Meanwhile, in New Jersey, where there is legislation banning single-use bags in certain stores, the Consortium will test a “returnable bag service” model in which customers are “borrowing” a bag onsite, reusing it before eventually returning it at the same or different retailer’s store to be washed, redistributed and reused by additional customers. This offers a solution for when customers forget to bring their own reusable bags.

Interested retailers can email [email protected] to inquire about joining the Consortium to Reinvent the Retail Bag to gain access to useful research, insights and continued in-market experimentation as well as potentially participate in pilots in Arizona and Colorado.

Learn more at http://beyondthebaginitiative.com/

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’s first initiative, the NextGen Consortium, assembled leading food and beverage companies, including McDonald’s and Starbucks, to identify and commercialize a widely recyclable, compostable and/or reusable cup. 12 winning cup solutions were selected and the Consortium is supporting the testing of these new solutions as well as conducting select pilots to accelerate their path to scale. 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 Brands, 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.

Contact: [email protected]

 

Purposeful Collaboration for a Sustainable Future 

By Kate Daly

December 05, 2022

We have learned a tremendous amount along the way, from brands, from customers, and from innovators who are helping to imagine a future where waste is a thing of the past.

Collaborating to solve complex challenges is hard. But scaling new systems effectively and sustainably is even harder when done alone. As we transition from our embedded linear systems into new, interdependent circular ones, we still have much to learn and test so that new approaches can become operational in a diverse set of contexts. Through our NextGen and Beyond the Bag consortia, Closed Loop Partners catalyzes collaborations with innovators and system operators across the packaging value chain to test opportunities and identify pain points within a new reuse economy. We bring together some of the world’s largest companies to harness their expertise and reach to unlock system-wide scale for a waste-free future.  

More than four years ago, when Closed Loop Partners joined with Starbucks, McDonald’s and other brand leaders to launch the NextGen Consortium, we set out to reinvent the cup—and to accelerate systemic change across the industry. We have learned a tremendous amount along the way, from brands, from customers, and from innovators who are helping to imagine a future where waste is a thing of the past. In early 2020, the NextGen Consortium launched a set of reuse ecosystem pilots in the San Francisco Bay Area in partnership with the design firm IDEO. Our report Bringing Reusable Packaging Systems to Life highlighted key insights from these in-market tests, and these learnings are the building blocks for the next phase of testing and innovation the NextGen Consortium is embarking upon in the coming year. 

[READ: The Comeback of Reuse, and the Path Forward] 

As we look forward to all the work ahead, we are pleased to welcome PepsiCo as a Sector Lead Partner, alongside Founding Partners Starbucks and McDonald’s, inaugural Sector Lead Partner The Coca-Cola Co., Supporting Partners Yum! Brands, Wendy’s and JDE Peets, and Environmental Advisory Partner WWF. PepsiCo adds valuable experience to our deep bench of innovators and system operators.  

Continuing collaboration helps unlock greater system-wide scale so that we can go further — together. We’re proud to continue advancing initiatives where competitors are meaningfully engaged in co-creating a more sustainable future for packaging.  

Reuse Series

How Do We Spark a Seachange for Reuse?

By Kate Daly

October 06, 2022

It will take unprecedented collaboration to address the scale of our global plastic waste challenge. Bringing together the nation’s largest retailers to test and pilot sustainable packaging solutions that operate across each other’s stores is a critical step toward this collective goal. 

If you visualize the current journey of most products and packaging in our economy, it looks like a straight line that starts with extracting finite raw materials and ends at the landfill. After decades of relying on this seemingly convenient linear system, its long-hidden economic costs and environmental consequences have become clear, bringing us to a tipping point that necessitates a better way forward — one that considers these materials as resources, not waste.

Consider the iconic single-use plastic bag. In the United States, it’s estimated that we use 100 billion plastic bags per year – and fewer than 10 percent of these are recycled. Most bags wind up in the landfill, in the environment, or in the wrong recycling stream, tangling recycling equipment and leading to costly shutdowns. Today, depending on where we live, our local stores may charge a fee to use a plastic or paper bag or may have banned single-use bags. More and more, customers are demanding convenient options that reduce environmental impact while helping us get our goods home. Reusable bags that we can borrow rather than own are one part of the solution, alongside bag reduction and building the habit of using the bags we already own. We’ve all had moments when we’ve forgotten our reusable bag or taken an unplanned shopping trip, which is where borrowing a reusable bag fits in.

Earlier this month, the Center for the Circular Economy released Beyond the Plastic Bag: Sparking a Seachange for Reuse – a report of our learnings from conducting first-of-a-kind reusable bag pilots at CVS Health, Target and Walmart stores in Northern California last summer.  The report is specific to the testing of reusable bag systems where customers who didn’t bring their own bag could “borrow” a bag and use it multiple times before returning it at the same or a different brand’s store to be washed, redistributed and reused by other customers.

The Beyond the Bag Pilots, launched by the Consortium to Reinvent the Retail Bag and conducted in partnership with global design firm IDEO, unearthed key insights across the customer journey and in behind the scenes operational logistics to determine what needs to be true for reuse models to be successful.

 What We Learned

  • For customers to pay attention to this new approach to carrying goods home, punchy, impact-oriented storytelling, with a clear description of the rewards and benefits of participating is essential
  • For customers to participate in reuse systems, signing up to borrow a bag must be just as convenient, inclusive and accessible as using a single-use bag
  • Accessible drop-off points and quick confirmation of the return of reusables are must-haves for customers to engage fully in a reuse system
  • Impact must be measured at every stage of the system, including percentage of reusable bags recovered, water and energy usage, and bag damage or loss rates. Return rates and repeat participation are critical measurements that require long-term testing and engagement to accurately gauge
  • As reuse grows, so do opportunities for increased efficiencies in shared infrastructure and other collaborations that increase the density and availability of drop-off points and help optimize and scale the system

We need to design and implement every aspect of the new systems thoughtfully to meet the needs of customers and retailers and ensure a measurable environmental benefit. Iterative testing and data-driven decision-making can help avoid unintended consequences, like insufficient recapture of “reusables” or the one-to-one replacement of single-use plastics with reusables.

The learnings from our reusable bag pilots extend far beyond this one application and help bring additional data to the conversation on reuse, but we still have a long way to go. Experimentation, iteration, and collaboration will continue to be key. Additional tests and measurements of reuse systems over longer periods will be necessary to gauge the shift from initial adoption of a reusable product to the active return and repeat engagement in a truly circular reuse system. Through collaborations like the Beyond the Bag partnership we hope to accelerate toward a future in which reusing valuable materials and products in our economy becomes the commonsense norm. Explore the full learnings from our pilots here.

Closed Loop Partners Releases Key Insights from First-of-a-Kind Multi-Retailer Reusable Bag Pilots, with CVS Health, Target & Walmart

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September 13, 2022

New report from Closed Loop Partners shares insights to guide retailers on effective reusable bag models, a key solution as regulations to reduce reliance on single-use plastic bags grow across the U.S.

Read the full report

September 13, New York, NY – Closed Loop Partners’ Center for the Circular Economy and the Consortium to Reinvent the Retail Bag released a new resource to help guide retailers looking to adopt reusable bag service models. The report, Beyond the Plastic Bag, shares key insights and analysis gathered from collaborative reusable bag pilots conducted in select CVS Health, Target and Walmart stores throughout Northern California in 2021, as part of the Consortium to Reinvent the Retail Bag’s Beyond the Bag Pilots.

Approximately 100 billion single-use plastic bags are used each year in the U.S., most of which end up as waste in landfills and the environment. Reuse models play an important role in addressing single-use plastic packaging waste, alongside other complementary waste mitigation strategies. As retailers work to respond to the urgent challenge and address increasing plastic bag regulations across the U.S., the report provides key findings on what drives an optimal shopper experience and uptake of reuse models:

Customer-facing journey for reusable bag services

  • Effective storytelling is foundational for building awareness
  • Convenience is imperative when it comes to adoption and sign-up
  • Customers are looking for a clear and easy reason to help them reuse
  • Accessible drop-off points and quick confirmation of return help build trust in the reuse system

 

Behind the scenes action enabling reusable bag services

  • Partnering with the right stakeholders matters
  • Impact must be measured at every stage
  • Further scaling reuse systems will help catalyze efficiencies

 

“Successfully implementing reuse models on the ground, and accelerating their growth, takes unprecedented collaboration. Since 2018, the Center for the Circular Economy has been convening competitors to address complex material challenges and advance circular solutions, including reuse,” said Kate Daly, Managing Director of the Center for the Circular Economy at Closed Loop Partners. “This collaboration with the nation’s largest retailers to test and pilot reusable bag solutions across multiple stores is a critical step toward reducing single-use plastic bag waste. Iterative testing and data-driven decision-making of reuse systems can help avoid unintended consequences, like insufficient recapture of reusable packaging or the one-to-one replacement of single-use plastics with ‘reusables.’ We hope that this report on the Beyond the Bag initiative serves as inspiration for forward-thinking organizations looking to bring reuse to the next level. The learnings from our pilots can help guide us toward a future in which reusing valuable materials and products in our economy becomes the commonsense norm.”

The Center for the Circular Economy launched the Consortium to Reinvent the Retail Bag in 2020, convening many of the world’s largest retailers to identify, test and implement innovative new design solutions that serve the function of today’s single-use plastic retail bag. The Consortium’s Innovation Partner, IDEO, worked closely with Closed Loop Partners and its retail partners in designing and running the reusable bag pilots in Northern California featured in the Beyond the Plastic Bag report. Findings from the Beyond the Bag Pilots build on and complement additional learnings from Closed Loop Partners’ NextGen Consortium that ran several reusable cup pilots in 2020, driving forward the Center’s work to rigorously test and hone reuse solutions to ensure that they achieve their intended impacts.

“Through partnerships with innovative startups, collaboration with other partners, and buy-in from our customers, the Beyond the Bag Pilots provided critical data-driven analysis on the role that reuse models could play in plastic waste mitigation when thoughtfully designed and their impact successfully measured,” said Sheryl Burke, Senior Vice President of Corporate Social Responsibility for CVS Health. “We still have a lot to learn collectively, but we’re thrilled to continue our journey towards a more circular future for retail.”

“Bringing Target, Walmart, and CVS Health to the same table demonstrates the partnership needed across our industry to address the challenge of plastic waste and achieve measurable environmental benefits for all,” said Amanda Nusz, Senior Vice President of Corporate Responsibility for Target and President of the Target Foundation. “We’re grateful for the insights these pilots have provided, and we’re applying what we learned to identify bag options that are best for our guests, propelling more circular systems throughout retail.”

“The Beyond the Bag Pilots fostered an unprecedented platform for connectivity between trailblazing reuse start-ups, customers, Walmart, and other retailers in the industry,” said Kathleen McLaughlin, Executive Vice President and Chief Sustainability Officer for Walmart. “The pilots created the space for collective experimentation, and provided data-driven insights on the ease, convenience, and perceived benefits of the models tested. This kind of on-the-ground diligence from pilots is critical to inform what could be next for reuse and where it could fit in a circular economy.”

Over the next year, the Consortium to Reinvent the Retail Bag will continue to conduct extensive research and in-market testing of designs and innovative bag solutions that can reduce single-use plastic bag waste. These aim to inform the viability of solutions in different contexts, as well as the full potential of solutions to more sustainably, accessibly and effectively get goods home.

About the Center for the Circular Economy at Closed Loop Partners

Closed Loop Partners is a New York-based investment firm comprised of venture capital, growth equity, private equity and catalytic capital, as well as an innovation center. In 2018, Closed Loop Partners launched its innovation center, the Center for the Circular Economy, which unites competitors to tackle complex material challenges and to implement systemic change that advances the circular economy. Closed Loop Partners brings together designers, manufacturers, recovery systems operators, trade organizations, municipalities, policymakers and NGOs to create, invest in and support scalable innovations that target big systems problems. In 2022, the Center launched a Reuse Insights Lab to advance the firm’s testing, piloting and investing in reusable packaging models. The Reuse Insights Lab conducts qualitative and quantitative research and data analytics through in-market testing, focus groups and customer interviews, to identify how to design and build the architecture for a reuse system that brings the circular economy to the forefront in our everyday life. 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, The TJX Companies, Inc. as Apparel & Home Goods Sector Lead Partner, and Ulta Beauty as Beauty Sector Lead Partner. Ahold Delhaize USA Brands, 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. IDEO is the Consortium’s Innovation Partner. Learn more about the Consortium here.

Ulta Beauty Joins the Consortium to Reinvent the Retail Bag

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July 28, 2021

The nation’s largest beauty retailer joins leading retailers across grocery, home goods, sports and apparel, to help combat plastic bag waste  

Ulta Beauty, Inc. (NASDAQ: ULTA), the leading beauty retailer in the U.S., joined the Consortium to Reinvent the Retail Bag as the Beauty Sector Lead Partner, working alongside 13 leading retailers, including Founding Partners CVS Health, Target and Walmart. The Consortium, through its Beyond the Bag Initiative, aims to identify, test and implement viable design solutions that more sustainably serve the purpose of the single-use plastic retail bag.

“Ulta Beauty represents a critical sector that must be at the table as the Consortium to Reinvent the Retail Bag identifies and tests the viability of innovative solutions to replace the single-use plastic bag,” says Kate Daly, Managing Director of the Center for the Circular Economy at Closed Loop Partners. “With the important addition of Ulta Beauty, an established leader, we can expand our reach even further, paving the way for a more sustainable retail industry, at scale.”

The Consortium, managed by Closed Loop Partners’ Center for the Circular Economy, spans multiple work streams with the goal of replacing current retail bags by fueling design innovation, advancing materials recovery and identifying best practices for policy and engaging consumers. As the Consortium’s Beauty Sector Lead Partner, Ulta Beauty will direct priorities and activities for the Beyond the Bag Initiative in the context of beauty retail. With more than 1,250 stores across 50 U.S. states, the retailer will work with Consortium Partners to explore viable alternatives to the single-use plastic bag and recommend applications that align with the sector’s needs and existing operations. Ulta Beauty is committed to bringing leading solutions to the industry as the company works to create a lasting, positive legacy on our environment and world.

The Beyond the Bag Initiative not only brings together major retailers as Consortium Partners, but also engages with stakeholders across the bag value chain, including suppliers, materials recovery facilities, municipalities, advocacy groups and others to collectively promote viable market solutions that can scale, and bring value to retailers, customers and end markets. The Consortium takes a holistic three-year approach to identify and scale affordable, accessible and less wasteful solutions. It will aim to test current innovations, and advance long-term solutions to ensure that the industry is designing both for today and tomorrow’s needs.