Hy-Vee has teamed up with fellow food and drug retailers to help reduce plastic waste by joining the Consortium to Reinvent the Retail Bag as a supporting partner.
The coalition, launched over the summer, was founded to test options to the single-use plastic shopping bag now used by mass retailers nationwide. CVS Health, Target and Walmart are the consortium’s founding partners, while The Kroger Co. serves as the group’s grocery sector lead partner. Walgreens participates as a supporting partner, and investment firm Closed Loop Partners serves as managing partner. Dick’s Sporting Goods takes part as sports and outdoor retailer sector lead partner.
When the consortium was announced, the participating retailers pledged more than $15 million toward the Beyond the Bag Initiative, a three-year effort that calls on retailers to “think outside the box” to address the global waste issue of plastic shopping bags.
“The opportunity to join the Beyond the Bag Initiative and address the shared challenges presented by single-use plastics with some of the largest and most influential retailers in our country is crucial as we remain committed to reducing our environmental impact,” Jay Marshall, vice chairman and president of Hy-Vee’s supply chain and subsidiaries, said in a statement. “Through this collaboration, we can truly move the needle on a global waste issue and bring to life some much-needed solutions. We look forward to contributing our knowledge and insights and collectively collaborating with other consortium partners to pave the way for a more sustainable future.”
More than 100 billion single-use plastic retail bags are used annually in the United States, and less than 10% are recycled, according to the consortium, which also noted that a plastic bag’s lifespan far outlasts it usage. The average time of use for a single-use plastic bag is 12 minutes, versus an average of 1,000 years for it to break down. That exacts a heavy toll on the environment, as plastic retail bags are among the top 10 items found on beaches and waterways worldwide each year.
West Des Moines, Iowa-based Hy-Vee operates more than 275 supermarkets and drugstores in Iowa, Illinois, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, South Dakota and Wisconsin.
“We are thrilled to welcome Hy-Vee to the Consortium to Reinvent the Retail Bag. The collaborative power of our consortium enables us to have impact at scale and accelerate the pace of innovation to find alternatives to the current retail bag,” commented Kate Daly, managing director of the Center for the Circular Economy at Closed Loop Partners. “We continue to invite other retailers to join us and send a unified signal for transformational change to address this long-standing environmental challenge.”
In August, the Consortium to Reinvent the Retail Bag launched a global innovation challenge to source solutions — including technology-enabled reuse models, new materials, and software and hardware innovations — to replace the today’s plastic bag. The challenge, which closed last week, drew more than 450 submissions.
Consortium partners, including retailers and environmental advisory partners, and third-party experts will review and select the shortlist and winners. All submissions are judged according to sustainability, accessibility, customer behavior and alignment with reuse and recovery infrastructure. Winning concepts are eligible to receive a portion of $1 million in funding, participate in a circular accelerator to receive further assistance in scaling, and access testing and potential pilot opportunities.
Other consortium participants include stakeholders across the plastic bag value chain, such as suppliers, materials recovery facilities, municipalities and advocacy groups.
“Our commitment to phase out single-use plastic bags across our enterprise is a critical part of our Zero Hunger | Zero Waste social impact plan,” stated Lisa Zwack, head of sustainability at Kroger. “We’re thrilled to welcome Hy-Vee to the consortium, and we encourage other retailers to join our search for innovative, sustainable solutions to the traditional single-use plastic bag.”