- Walmart is making progress toward finding sustainable alternatives to single-use plastic bags through several in-store pilots and initiatives, Jane Ewing, the retailer’s senior vice president of sustainability, wrote in a blog on Friday.
- A Walmart store in Santa Clara, California piloted a solution called Fill It Forward that lets customers scan a tag on their reusable bags each time they use them to accumulate points, which then convert into monetary donations to a local organization. Another store in Mountain View, California, piloted Goatote, which lets customers “check out” reusable bags via an app that are free if returned within 30 days or cost $2 if customers keep them.
- Walmart’s efforts to encourage reusable bag usage come as cities and states, like New Jersey, are imposing bans on single-use plastic bags and retailers are responding with initiatives to replace them.
Walmart’s latest innovation with reusable bags builds on its earlier efforts to find sustainable bag options.
In February, Ewing said the retailer's Mexican and Central American Walmart division were also going bagless. That same month, the chain started the bagless pilot in Vermont, and all of its Vermont locations have since gone bagless. In July, Walmart kicked off a similar pilot in Maine, and now all stores in that states have phased out plastic bags. While Walmart said the bagless pilots in those states — both of which recently adopted bans on single-use plastic bags — received support from customers, the retailer indicated it took some adjustment, noting there was a "learning curve" for customers and associates.
"We realize that reinventing the retail bag won’t be an easy or immediate process. But we’re encouraged by our progress in these markets, and by the innovative solutions entrepreneurs continue to offer," Ewing wrote last week. "Key learnings from these efforts will inform our future bagless efforts."
During the Fill It Forward pilot at the Santa Clara store, meanwhile, adoption of reusable bags increased 31%, per the blog post.
Walmart is a founding partner of Closed Loop Partners’ Consortium to Reinvent the Retail Bag, which launched the Beyond the Bag initiative last year. The project, which unfolds over three years, aims to have retail partners test and implement sustainable alternatives to single-use plastic bags. More than 450 people submitted ideas to the Beyond the Bag Challenge, which announced nine winners earlier this year, including Goatote.
The Goatote pilot, which lasted six weeks, consisted of in-store kiosks where customers could "rent" the reusable bags, according to GreenBiz. Walmart has another collaboration with ChicoBag and 99Bridges that lends reusable bags at the point of sale, GreenBiz noted.
Other retailers are also working to phase out single-use plastics. For example, Dollar General and Albertsons signed onto the Beyond the Bag project at the start of this year.