Even if you don’t live in a place where plastic bag bans exist, you’re well aware of how terrible single-use plastic bags are for the environment. According to the Center for the Circular Economy at Closed Loop Partners, it’s estimated that in the United States, we use 100 million plastic bags per year, with less than 10 percent being recycled.
The remaining 90% ends up in our oceans, landfills, and more; all places meant to support our eco-systems and keep the planet running smoothly. Long story short–it’s a big problem that requires big solutions. Enter the Beyond the Bag Innovation Challenge. It’s certainly not a one-size-fix-all method but it’s a noteworthy start.
The worldwide competition, created by Closed Loop Partners in collaboration with big-name retailers (Target, Walmart, CVS Health) and global design firm IDEO, launched last year and called for standout plastic bag alternatives. Of the almost 500 (!) submissions, just nine brands took home top prizes: ChicoBag, Domtar, Eon, Fill it Forward, GOATOTE, PlasticFri, Returnity, SmartC and Sway. Of course, it helps that each one already has some experience in creating eco-friendly innovations but through the next phase of this challenge, they’ll be able to reach a wider audience.
In addition to a portion of $1 million in prize money, they’ve also been admitted to the Circular Accelerator, a mentorship program where they’ll be able to improve and test their creations.
“The Consortium will work closely with winning solutions throughout 2021, supporting design research, prototyping, mentoring and iterative developments toward piloting select solutions in-market.,” adds a press release.
Sustainability is as necessary as it is trendy. This contest, alongside the work being done by intersectional environmentalists, climate change activists, and more is proof that the ways in which we live and more importantly create, will and must change. Plus, if you were ready to lose all faith in pitch competitions, we hope this inspires you to keep looking and submitting. You never know when that “yes” (and money!) will come through.
Check out the winning Beyond the Bag solutions below.
Innovative Design Winners
PlasticFri’s reusable bag is made with starch-based compostable material.
Domtar’s durable alternative is made of environmentally-friendly cellulose fiber.
You probably can’t tell that Sway’s eco-friendly innovation is made of seaweed-derived material.
Reuse and Refill Winners
Just think of how much time and space you’ll save when using Returnity’s reusable shipping materials.
GOATOTE’s kiosks ensure that no matter where you are and how much time you have, you can grab a reusable bag on the go.
For those who need a reusable bag but don’t want to take it home, Chicobags can be borrowed on-site wherever you need them.
Enabling Technology Winners
The SmartC app will remind you to shop responsibly with incentives tied to their reusable bags.
The Fill It Forward app tracks your environmental impact (and gives back to charities) via a tag placed on your reusable bag.
This innovation includes a “CircularID Protocol” that provides transparency around the utilization of your reusable bags.
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