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A Voice for Our Ocean

Ocean Conservancy to Advise Leading Retailers in Developing Alternatives to Plastic Bags

Plastic Retail Bags are Among the Most Common and Most Dangerous Forms of Ocean Plastic Pollution

Washington, D.C. – Ocean Conservancy will serve as a key Environmental Advisory Partner to the Beyond the Bag initiative, which launched today as part of Closed Loop Partners’ newly formed Consortium to Reinvent the Retail Bag. Consortium founding members CVS Health, Target and Walmart, joined by fellow leading U.S. retailers Kroger and Walgreens, are committing more than $15 million to develop, test and scale alternative design solutions and models to the traditional plastic retail bag. The three-year Consortium welcomes additional members to help mitigate the environmental impact of these items and the unique waste management challenges they present.

“Ocean Conservancy has long believed that we need to engage with partners across all sectors to tackle the global ocean plastics crisis; the stakes are simply too high to go at it alone,” said Janis Searles Jones, CEO of Ocean Conservancy. “The plastic retail bag is among the most insidious types of waste we see in our ocean, and we are thrilled to share our decades of expertise on this issue with leaders and innovators to help change the paradigm.”

Studies show that nearly 100 billion single-use plastic retail bags are thrown away in the U.S. every year. Due to limits in recycling infrastructure and technology, more than 90% of these go to landfill or – worse – the environment. In fact, every year plastic retail bags are among the top 10 items found on beaches and waterways worldwide during Ocean Conservancy’s International Coastal Cleanup (ICC), with volunteers collecting nearly 2 million of these items in 2018 in a single day. Ocean Conservancy research shows that plastic bags are among the top five deadliest forms of marine debris, often mistaken as jellyfish and other prey by foraging turtles, marine mammals and other creatures.

The Consortium’s global Innovation Challenge, with an initial focus on implementation in the United States, invites innovators, suppliers, designers and problem-solvers to submit their ideas for game-changing sustainable bag solutions. A Circular Accelerator, potential piloting opportunities and infrastructure investments will support the development of market-ready solutions.

“The status quo has been shaken, presenting a unique opportunity to build back better and reimagine a more resilient and sustainable way of doing business,” said Kate Daly, Managing Director of the Center for the Circular Economy at Closed Loop Partners. “During challenging times, unexpected and unprecedented collaboration is required and we’re excited to work with leading retailers like CVS Health, Target, Walmart and others – along with the entire industry – to take effective action.”

Joined by Trash Free Seas Alliance® member Conservation International, Ocean Conservancy will provide guidance to ensure ocean health stays front and center throughout the project.

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About Ocean Conservancy’s Trash Free Seas® Program

Ocean Conservancy has led the fight for a clean, healthy ocean free of trash since 1986, when the U.S.-based nonprofit launched its annual International Coastal Cleanup (ICC). Since then, Ocean Conservancy has mobilized millions of ICC volunteers to remove trash from beaches and waterways around the world while pioneering upstream solutions to the growing ocean plastics crisis. Ocean Conservancy invests in cutting-edge scientific research, implements on-the-ground projects, and works with conservationists, scientists, governments, the private sector and members of the public to change the plastics paradigm. To learn more about our Trash Free Seas® program visit oceanconservancy.org/trashfreeseas, and follow Ocean Conservancy on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.