The single-use plastic bag has long been the industry standard solution for customers to get a purchase home. But almost all plastic bags end up in a landfill, are incinerated, or leak into the environment as trash. It’s estimated that we use 100 billion plastic bags per year in the U.S., which requires millions of barrels of oil to produce.
Although technically recyclable, very few ever complete the journey to a recycling facility. Today, consumers are increasingly trying to make eco-friendly bag choices, but plastic alternatives carry their own set of drawbacks and there is still no scalable, long-term solution.
Beyond the Bag is an initiative launched by Closed Loop Partners that brings together some of retail's largest global brands to reinvent the single-use plastic bag. As part of the Initiative, EON partnered with Returnity to pilot a reusable bag system that makes it easy for retailers to transport purchases from the checkout to customer homes, without harming the environment. Each bag has a unique Digital ID that enables it to be identified and managed throughout its journey – from retailer to customer to cleaning center, and back again.
Customers can scan their bag's QR code to access instructions on how to return their bags after use, and see the bag's journey from one delivery to the next. And when the bag is ready to be recycled, sorting facilities can scan its QR code to access its material contents and information to make their job easier.
The bag was tested through Walmart's InHome delivery pilot in a small market to gain initial learnings from customers about its viability. The two month pilot showed positive results, and we took away some key learnings that will be used to iterate as we scale the pilot to more customers and retailers.
The bag was tested through Walmart's InHome delivery pilot in a small market to gain initial learnings
from customers about its viability. The two month pilot showed positive results, and we took away some
key learnings that will be used to iterate as we scale the pilot to more customers and retailers.
Customers needed more of a purpose-driven reason to scan the Digital ID, especially to scan repeatedly. We learned that a rewards program could offer this value to them, and gamification could be an opportunity to explore further in future pilots. We also learned that customers wanted to see sources for sustainability claims, and statistics to be presented in a more accessible and relatable way.
Retailers could increase efficiency by better leveraging their Digital ID information. Custom applications that leverage information from each bag’s Digital ID could improve functions such as reverse logistics.
Along with reuse, there’s an opportunity to reclaim owned materials and/or value through the recycling of existing assets once they reach end-of-life. Items, such as the bags used in this pilot, can only be sent to the right recycling facility if sorters can identify exactly what materials they’re made from. Digital ID gives sorters and recyclers access to essential material data that is crucial to scaling operations. This is an opportunity we aim to further explore in the future.
While this pilot focused on reusable bags for home deliveries, many of the reusable system learnings translate to packaging more broadly. EON is currently testing connected packaging solutions and looking for brands who would be interested in piloting. Reach out to us through the Contact Form to participate.