‘Bring Your Own Bag’ Program Kicks off in Denver, Tucson

King Soopers and Fry’s supermarkets in Denver and Tucson will be piloting a “Bring Your Own Bag” program to increase the use of reusable shopping bags this summer. The program is the brainchild of the Consortium to Reinvent the Retail Bag.

Covering more than 150 retail locations, the pilot programs aim to make reusable bags “the norm wherever customers shop” and to assess how collective action by multiple retailers can create change in consumer behaviors, according to the environmentally-minded investment firm Closed Loop Partners, managing partner of the Consortium. Under the consortium’s Beyond the Bag Initiative, which is planned to run a three-year course, retailers will pilot easy-to-use alternatives to single-use plastic bags that help reduce global waste.

The “Bring Your Own” programs will run until July 30th and will make use of solutions from the consortium’s “Playbook,” which include in-store signage, marketing efforts and customer prompts about choosing reusable bags. Based on the results, the consortium will investigate scaling these low-cost, easy-to-implement approaches to spark a national cultural realignment around reuse, Closed Loop Partners said. The consortium’s efforts over the past few years included evaluating hundreds of innovations and testing in multiple solutions, in addition to surveys of thousands of customers and retail employees.

Cincinnati-based Kroger, parent company of King Soopers and Fry’s supermarkets, serves as the grocery division lead partner for the consortium.

“We all need to work together to create healthier, thriving communities across the country. This pilot is another opportunity to engage our customers directly as we work to reduce waste,” Denise Osterhues, Senior Director of Sustainability and Social Impact at The Kroger Co., said in a statement.

Other retailers taking part in “Bring Your Own Bag” pilots in the Denver and Tucson areas include Target; Dollar General; CVS; Dick’s Sporting Goods; TJX’s T.J. Marshalls and HomeGoods stores; and Ulta Beauty. Some smaller independent retailers are participating as well.

“We are hopeful these small local steps can lead to greater progress,” stated Denine Torr, Vice President of Corporate Social Responsibility and Philanthropy at Dollar General. “If we are successful, this multi-city pilot program will provide a model that retailers can scale in other geographies, realizing near-term environmental impact and cost-savings.”

It is estimated that 100 billion plastic bags are used in the United States every year, and that fewer than 10% of them are recycled, Closed Loop Partners reported. The company asserted that just a 1% reduction in single-use plastic bag use translates to one billion fewer bags used and discarded into the waste stream.

Though widely accepted by shoppers, reusable bags haven’t generated consistent use, research from the Consortium to Reinvent the Retail Bag shows. The “Bring Your Own Bag” pilots are devised to prompt consumers to remember to bring their reusable bags to the store on a more frequent basis, as well as to use them when shopping in places other than the grocery store.

Kate Daily, head of the Center for the Circular Economy at Close Loop Partners said, “The most sustainable bag is often the one we already own. Retailers coming together to support customers in bringing their own reusable bag whenever and wherever they shop is a key step to reducing single-use plastic waste. This pilot brings to life the Beyond the Bag Consortium’s collaborative, holistic approach to addressing an urgent plastic waste challenge, and we look forward to seeing the impact of this effort at scale.”

CVS, Target, and Walmart founded the Consortium to Reinvent the Retail Bag. Besides Kroger and Dollar General, other mass retail partners include Ahold Delhaize USA, Albertsons Cos., H-E-B, Hy-Vee, Meijer, Wakefern Food Corp. and Walgreens.
“As we expand these reusable bag solutions across CVS Pharmacy locations and learn about consumer behaviors, we continue to see the power in collective retail action,” said Sheryl Burke, Senior Vice President of Corporate Social Responsibility and Chief Sustainability Officer at CVS Health.