Albertsons Cos., the nation’s second-largest supermarket operator, has joined the Consortium to Reinvent the Retail Bag as a supporting partner to help reduce plastic waste through the Beyond the Bag Initiative.
The Consortium to Reinvent the Retail Bag was launched last summer by the Center for the Circular Economy at green investment firm Closed Loop Partners to test options to the single-use plastic shopping bag now used by mass retailers nationwide. The coalition’s three-year Beyond the Bag Initiative calls on retailers to “think outside the box” to address the global waste issue of plastic shopping bags while upholding consumer convenience.
In announcing its Beyond the Bag participation late yesterday, Boise, Idaho-based Albertsons said that over next few years it will continue to work on its own waste reduction efforts and collaborate with consortium partners on solutions that enable shoppers to transport groceries in an environmentally sustainable and convenient way.
“Albertsons Cos. has a passion for innovation and shares Beyond the Bag’s vision of reinventing the single-use retail bag,” Suzanne Long, group vice president of strategic sourcing and environmental, social and governance at Albertsons Cos. “Ensuring our products are better for our communities and the planet is a priority for us. We look forward to working with the Beyond the Bag Initiative to help create a more sustainable future.”
On the environmental side of the equation, core goals of the Beyond the Bag Initiative include cutting back use of raw materials from natural resources and greenhouse gases emitted from the production and recovery of bag solutions, and raising the percentage of retail bags diverted from landfills. And on the consumer side, the initiative aims to identify and scale new designs to create a system that serves the function of the current retail bag as well as conceive new possibilities for the retail bag system.
Other food and drug retail participants in the Consortium to Reinvent the Retail Bag include CVS Health, Target and Walmart as founding partners; The Kroger Co. as the grocery sector lead partner; and Walgreens, Hy-Vee and Meijer as supporting partners. Dick’s Sporting Goods acts as sports and outdoor retailer sector lead partner. New York-based Closed Loop Partners serves as managing partner.
In August, the consortium kicked off the global Beyond the Bag Challenge to source solutions — including technology-enabled reuse models, new materials, and software and hardware innovations — to replace today’s plastic bag. The winning concepts are expected to be announced in February, and eligible winners will receive funding, assistance in scaling, and access to testing and potential piloting opportunities.
“It’s time for us to think beyond the status quo and reinvent the ubiquitous retail bag for a more sustainable future,” commented Kate Daly, managing director of the Center for the Circular Economy at Closed Loop Partners. “We’re thrilled to welcome Albertsons Cos. into this consortium of leading retailers. Together, we can create impact at scale and tackle the challenge of plastic bag waste that spans companies and sectors.”
Albertsons operates 2,252 food and drug stores in 34 states and the District of Columbia under banners such as Albertsons, Safeway, Vons, Jewel-Osco, Shaw’s, Acme, Tom Thumb, Randalls, United Supermarkets, Pavilions, Star Market, Haggen and Carrs. In April 2019, the company announced its Plastics and Packaging Pledge to promote sustainability and cut down plastic waste companywide.
The grocer began the effort with its Own Brands portfolio, including a commitment to ensure that 100% of its private-label product packaging is recyclable, reusable or industrially compostable by 2025. The company has also pledged to decrease its overall plastic usage, with a focus on single-use plastics.
Selected stores also are offering reusable shopping bags made from 65% recycled material, including a minimum of 40% post-consumer waste. Albertsons noted that some of the recycled material comes from plastics that customers recycle in its stores and in the company’s operations. The retailer’s Southern California stores offer bags made with up to 90% post-consumer plastics that would otherwise end up in oceans and waterways.
And at the checkout lanes, Albertsons is working to reduce double-bagging and increase the number of items in each bag. The company said the plastic bags come with a printed reminder to reminder to recycle bags, and many stores provide single-use plastics drop-off bins to make it easier for customers to recycle their bags.