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Dick’s Ditches Single-Use Plastic Bags

Dick’s Sporting Goods is looking to hammer home its commitment to eliminating all single-use point-of-sale plastic bags by setting the goal to rid its stores of them by 2025, partnering with Closed Loop Partners’ Center for the Circular Economy and taking part in its Beyond the Bag Initiative.

Within the partnership, Dick’s has joined the Consortium to Reinvent the Retail Bag as its lead sports and outdoors sector partner. The retailer will work alongside founding partners CVS Health, Target and Walmart, as well as Kroger and Walgreens.

In sharing its reasons for joining the group, Dick’s cited Waste Management Journal data that the U.S. alone uses 100 billion plastic bags per year, with less than 10 percent of these are recycled according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The retailer noted that plastic bags are among the top 10 items found polluting beaches and waterways worldwide.

Closed Loop Partners’ Center for the Circular Economy serves as the managing partner of the consortium, in its quest for more sustainable solutions to replace the current retail bag through the Beyond the Bag Initiative.

Circularity is gaining steam as in the apparel industry, with nine in 10 companies having either existing or future plans to address it, according to Sourcing Journal’s 2020 Circularity Survey. But instead of recycling and reusing apparel, reusing a bag may be an easier goal to achieve given the universal agreement on the problems the materials can cause and manageable cost inhibitions.

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When CVS Health, Target and Walmart joined the consortium in July, investment firm Closed Loop Partners launched the initiative to identify, test and implement viable design solutions and models that more sustainably serve the purpose of the current retail bag.

The initiative was designed to take a holistic three-year approach that focuses on spurring innovation, advancing materials recovery through infrastructure investments and identifying best practices for policy and engaging consumers.

The consortium aims to test and launch both near-term solutions to replace the current plastic bag, as well as refining longer-term solutions for today’s and tomorrow’s needs. As the consortium’s sports and outdoors sector lead partner, Dick’s will direct priorities and activities for the initiative within this sector.

“Our customers are outdoor enthusiasts who are passionate about working together to keep our planet clean and safe for future generations,” Peter Land, Dick’s chief communications and sustainability officer, said in a statement. “Like our customers, we’re committed to doing what we can to prevent waste from ending up in our oceans and natural environment, and we look forward to working on the Beyond the Bag Initiative.”

Land started in his newly created position in August.

While the major retailers serve as the consortium partners, the organization engages with stakeholders across the bag value chain, including suppliers, materials recovery facilities, municipalities, advocacy groups, policymakers and others.

Within the initiative, the consortium recently launched the Beyond the Bag Challenge in partnership with global design and innovation agency IDEO, which is currently accepting ideas from across the globe to reinvent the retail bag.

Ideas could include reusable models, new materials or software and hardware innovations that eliminate the need for bags altogether. They must be submitted by Oct. 2, and eligible winners will receive a portion of $1 million of non-equity funding ranging from $50,000 to $200,000.

The Center for Circular Economy’s first initiative, NextGen Consortium, brought food and beverage companies together to create and commercialize to-go cups that are recyclable, compostable or reusable. A dozen solutions were selected by that consortium, and several of the winning designs were tested throughout the summer.

The goal to eliminate plastic bags is happening not only in the front end of the consumer experience, but also across the supply chain.

Last year, Fast Retailing Group, parent company of Uniqlo, J Brand and Theory, announced plans to eliminate the unnecessary use of single-use plastics, like shopping bags and product packaging, by 85 percent (or approximately 7,800 tons per year) by the end of 2020. Alongside the plans, Fast Retailing implemented verification tests, intended to detect and eliminate plastic in product packaging. From there, the brand switched to more sustainable alternatives such as recycled or Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)-certified paper.

Sustainable lifestyle apparel brands Prana and Outerknown are two companies that made a major commitment to remove plastic from its ecosystem, with the former launching a Responsible Packaging Movement (RPM) that carries a pledge with to eliminate plastic from its consumer packaging by 2021. Outerknown, a member of the RPM, said in September that it’s partnering with Vela, a manufacturer of FSC-certified paper bags, to eliminate single-use polybags from its supply chain. The company says it will be the first brand to transition 100 percent of its suppliers to use Vela paper bags by next fall.

Dick’s is serious about sustainability initiatives, launching a “Purpose Playbook” in 2018 as an extension of its corporate social responsibility strategy. That year, the company introduced a sustainably minded product line, Alpine Design in 100 stores.

Of the 10 styles initially launched within the line, three contained recycled fabric content, four featured eco-friendly durable water repellencies and three used PVC- and phthalate-free inks. This means 22 percent of the assortment incorporated a sustainability component into its design. By the end of 2019, Alpine Design was available in 46 styles across 200 stores, with 80 percent of the assortment having a sustainability feature, such as being chemical free or using recycled insulation or organic cotton.