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Statement: Innovation is just the first step to eliminating the single-use plastic retail bag

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Washington, D.C. – Today the Center for the Circular Economy at Closed Loop Partners announced the nine winners of the Beyond the Bag Challenge, part of an initiative launched in July 2020 bringing together leading retailers to identify and scale innovative alternatives to the single-use, fossil fuel-based plastic retail bag. Ocean Conservancy joined the project, called the Consortium to Reinvent the Retail Bag, as an Environmental Advisory Partner, and over the course of several months carefully reviewed dozens of shortlisted submissions from around the world to evaluate their environmental impacts and potential in solving the ocean plastics crisis. Chever Voltmer, plastics initiative director at Ocean Conservancy, released the following statement:

“We congratulate the organizers, partners, and innovators of this initiative for the enormous collective effort over many months to get ‘beyond the bag.’ Single-use plastic bags are one of the most prevalent, most insidious forms of ocean plastic pollution, and we were heartened by the creativity and sheer volume of submissions seeking to address this problem.

“What was clear from our engagement is that identifying innovation is just the beginning, and that we need to take a holistic approach that accounts for environmental impacts before, during, and after the useful life of any alternative materials or models. Sea creatures don’t discriminate between a fossil fuel-based bag and one made of other plastics, for example, so ensuring proper waste collection and investment in circular systems remains critical for the health of our ocean. We are excited to see how each of the nine winners progresses under more rigorous testing and evaluation during the next phase of the Beyond the Bag Initiative.”

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Additional facts and resources for reporters and editors:

  • Ever year plastic bags figure among the top 10 items collected from beaches and waterways worldwide during Ocean Conservancy’s International Coastal Cleanup.
  • In 2019, volunteers with Ocean Conservancy’s International Coastal Cleanup removed 740,290 plastic grocery bags from beaches and waterways around the world in a single day’s effort. This was in addition to the 611,100 plastic bags removed that fall under the “other plastic bags” category in Ocean Conservancy’s marine debris database.
  • Research co-authored by Ocean Conservancy scientists and published in the journal Marine Policy in 2015 shows that plastic bags are among the top five deadliest forms of marine debris.
  • Consortium members CVS Health and Conservation International are also members of Ocean Conservancy’s Trash Free Seas Alliance®.
  • Photos of plastic bags in the environment are available here.

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 FacebookTwitter and Instagram.

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 and TJX as Apparel & Home Goods Sector Lead Partner. Ahold Delhaize USA Brands, Albertsons Companies, 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.

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