Beyond the Bag Challenge

How might we transport goods from store to destination in a way that is compatible with diverse retail systems, delivers ease and convenience for customers, and reduces environmental impact?

We’re looking for
  • Solutions must transport goods from retailer to final destination while improving upon or replacing the single-use plastic retail bag
  • Solutions can include innovative materials, reusable bag systems, and/or bagless solutions
  • Solutions can explore point of sale, in-store pickup, delivery services or other key moments along the “retailer to destination” retail journey

Learn more+

The Opportunity
  • Winners will receive a portion of $1 million in funding
  • Selected ideas are eligible to participate in the Accelerator program and access piloting opportunities

Learn more+

What's happening now


For decades, the single-use plastic bag reigned as the dominant design solution for one of the most pervasive scenarios in the world: getting a purchase home. But that popularity comes at a great cost. We use 5 trillion single-use plastic bags each year. Bags that leak into the environment take hundreds of years to break down, and during that time they enter food chains as micro plastics, block waterways, causing flooding, and harm wildlife and livestock through accidental ingestion. While standard plastic bags use fossil fuels, common alternatives like paper bags, use more energy and water resources to produce, even when made from sustainable fiber sources. Very few paper and plastic bags that complete the journey to industrial recovery facilities are recycled due to the high costs of processing and low demand for the recovered materials. Reusable bags, most often made of cotton, aren’t reused at rates that offset their production and their journeys end in the landfill.

The Beyond the Bag Challenge seeks to identify and commercialize existing and future solutions to replace the single-use plastic retail bag. We are calling on innovators, suppliers, designers, and problem-solvers to join the Challenge and reinvent the timeless experience of getting goods home.

Challenge Journey

Ideas Phase

Review Phase

Refinement Phase

Final Review Phase

Winners Announcement Phase

Current Phase
Ideas Phase
Submit your Beyond the Bag Idea!

Participants are welcome to submit solutions through one of three submission channels: 1) For those innovators who wish to opt-in to posting on the public platform, please select the "Publicly Viewable" submission channel. 2) For those innovators who wish to opt out of posting on the public platform, please select the "Non-Public" submission channel. 3) Larger companies who wish to submit non-publicly as an Advanced Solution may fill out this survey to see if they qualify.


Read the 'A New Way Home' report to understand the opportunities, then share your idea.


Proposals are due DAY OF WEEK, DATE 2020 at TIME PST.

Coming soon
Review Phase
Submissions are carefully evaluated to determine the Ideas Shortlist.

Ideas are reviewed by Challenge Partners and OpenIDEO.


Share your feedback on submitted concepts.


Shortlisted candidates will be announced on DAY OF WEEK DATE 2020

Coming soon
Refinement Phase
Let's make ideas better through collaboration!

During the Refinement Phase, up to 60 shortlisted concepts are invited to develop prototypes, plans to scale their business model, and other demonstrations of the solution's ability to satisfy the goals of the Challenge.


Participants will guided through prototyping to support the iteration and refinement of their concept.


Refinement materials are due by DAY OF WEEK, DATE, 2020 at TIME PST.

Coming soon
Final Review Phase
Ideas are reviewed by a panel of expert Judges, our Partners, and OpenIDEO to select Top Ideas.

Stay tuned while a panel of Judges evaluate final submissions.


Top Ideas announced DATE, 2020.

Coming soon
Winners Announcement Phase
OpenIDEO will announce the winning ideas, and invite the community to explore and celebrate them.

Selected concepts will be announced and awarded.


Top Ideas announced DATE, 2020.

Coming soon
The Challenge

How might we transport goods from store to destination in a way that is compatible with diverse retail systems, delivers ease and convenience for customers, and reduces environmental impact?

Read The Full Brief

The Challenge

Change is coming. Every day, more and more customers are advocating for alternatives,  and a rising tide of bag related policies are prompting retailers to increasingly phase-out single-use items. At the same time, the retail experience is rapidly evolving with new technologies and consumer preferences–many consumers are now shopping online, retrieving goods from pick-up lockers without leaving our vehicles, and interacting with autonomous systems—all of which open up opportunities for design.

The world needs alternatives to meet this change. The retail industry has been working toward a more sustainable solution, but has yet to identify an option that offers the same level of convenience and performance to customers, has the potential to scale and integrate into global recovery and retail infrastructure at a competitive price point, while also meeting or improving the product’s environmental impact.

To begin, participants are required to read our retail bag report, “A New Way Home” to learn more about the problem today, how we got here, and what opportunities for design interventions exist tomorrow.

The goal of the Challenge is to identify and commercialize existing and future solutions to replace the single-use plastic retail bag.

Successful solutions will replace the standard single-use plastic shopping bag in grocery and retail environments. Solutions will address secondary packaging, which is the packaging (such as a bag) that a product is transported in from point of sale to final customer destination. The Challenge is not seeking solutions to address inter-region shipping or long-distance delivery.

Solutions may include:

  • Innovative materials; including bio-based bags and smart carriers
  • Reusable systems; including closed loop delivery, container exchanges, and reverse vending machines
  • Bagless solutions; including zero waste stores and systems, and autonomous vehicle and drone delivery

 Opportunity Areas to design for:

  • Point of Sale Checkout: The moment in which customers transition from browsing goods in a store to taking them home is a key design opportunity for companies looking to provide a delightful and memorable customer experience. Changes to this process are rapidly emerging: Automated self-checkout is replacing staffed cashier stations. Artificial intelligence is making it possible to anticipate supply needs through smart-shelf-stocking. Retailers exploring new ways of interacting with customers at the point of sale are seeking to leverage the existing physical kiosk space, account for the time constraints associated with the check-out process, and ensure they continue to have the ability to serve a continuous flow of shoppers. How might new solutions create value, while also diminishing friction for customers, cashiers, and retailers? How do new, automated capabilities on shelfs and at checkout open opportunities for efficiency in transferring products?

  • In-store pick-up: An increasing number of consumers are buying online and then picking up in-store—whether at a dedicated kiosk, curb-side in their vehicles, or via retail or third-party-owned storage lockers. An overlapping trend nested within is the rise of the option to return goods to stores, which provides new opportunities to design reusable bags and systems. What opportunities might be afforded with this lead time between requesting products and beginning to transport them? How might the digital experience suggest or incentivize a transaction free of single-use plastic bags? How might reusable bags or bag alternatives be designed into these new physical spaces within and beyond the store where customers are making a return?

  • Local delivery from store: The emerging appetite for localized community delivery services for everything from grocery to wellness takes bag and bag alternatives entirely beyond the retail environment—from moving goods from the store to their destination, to the return or disposal of secondary packaging—the packaging (such as a bag) that a product is transported in from point of sale to final customer destination. An increasing number of retailers are converting excess space in their stores into micro-fulfillment centers. While some retailers have their own delivery systems, a number of third-party gig services are also acting as a bridge, getting goods to customers quickly, but also creating challenges in consistency and control for single-use plastic bag alternatives. How might the different modes of transit—gig couriers, delivery fleets, autonomous vehicles, and beyond—create new possibilities that were previously unavailable to the consumer when transporting goods from point-of-sale to destination? What circular opportunities might be created as goods move from place to place within a localized community, or in the return and disposal of a bag or bag alternatives?

Review these Use Cases and Personas to get started.

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What Happens to My Idea?

Beyond the Bag Partners CVS, Target, Walmart and Closed Loop Partners’ Center for the Circular Economy have committed to advancing the identification, acceleration, and commercialization of new bag solutions.


As a participant in the Challenge, you retain intellectual property ownership of all your Challenge submission ideas. There is no transfer of intellectual property rights to any third party as a condition of participating in the Challenge. Please review our full Terms & Conditions before submitting a concept. Please do not submit confidential information as part of your application.

Challenge support we offer participants:

  • Guidance in outlining research, prototyping, and product design processes to inform the innovation, prototyping, and refinement journey of emerging solutions
  • Industry webinars with Partners to learn more about systemic context  
  • ‍New connections and the opportunity to meet co-creators while growing your network via the OpenIDEO platform and circular economy community

Challenge Awards:

Top Ideas are eligible to receive a portion of $1 million in funding. We are excited to support innovators across multiple stages of development:

  • Emerging Innovator Award: Early stage concepts: Up to $50k USD 
  • Establishing Innovator Award: Mid stage concepts: Up to $100k USD  
  • Advanced Solutions: Considered for financial and in-kind support for testing and piloting

Accelerator and Pilot


Up to six of the most promising early- and growth-stage winners have the option to advance to the Accelerator program to receive further assistance in scaling and commercializing their solutions. These solutions will receive exceptional retail and recovery-system industry access to test, pilot, and enhance their solutions.


Some selected Advanced Solutions will also have access to testing and piloting opportunities outside of the Accelerator program. .


Promising solutions that participate in the Accelerator may be eligible for additional capital investment both during and after the program. Startups invited to advance to the business Accelerator program, who choose to participate, will not be required to provide an equity stake, warrant, or other investment commitment.

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Evaluation Criteria

Solutions entered into the Challenge must solve for getting goods from retailer to final destination. They may touch one or several Opportunity Areas. 


  • Customer performance: The solution will seek to maintain or enhance positive customer experience compared to existing solutions, while striving towards the highest performance standards available for its type, and supporting weight of X, volume of Y, and distance of Z. We ask the innovators to consider standard regulations from innovator country of origin and with future intent to achieve approval in the US market with regard to human health and safety of bags and bag alternatives. Review our Additional Resources to help you get started.
  • Retailer performance: The solution seeks to integrate into retailer environments, supporting store staff in safe and efficient workflows and adding value (e.g. marketing, foot traffic, new customers).
  • Adaptability: The solution is designed for near-term commercial viability, and also be adaptable to the rapidly changing infrastructure, technology—such as self-checkout— and policy of tomorrow.
  • Ecosystem: The solution seeks to be relevant to a wide range of applications across the entire retail industry, and not be exclusive to one sector or business type. The solution is viable in the target market. Solutions can be designed for broad implementation OR consider a regional marketplace approach that is scalable long-term.
  • Marketplace: The solution is viable in North America. Solutions can be designed for broad implementation in specified key markets OR consider a regional marketplace approach. The solution will consider the priority market of North America for implementation, but may originate from global markets.


  • Sourcing: The solution should use sustainably and ethically sourced materials (whether virgin and/or recaptured materials), be non-toxic, and minimize harmful impact (e.g. significant water or energy use) in manufacturing. Third-party certifications and/or supporting documentation to support material claims are preferred, but not required.
  • Use: Solutions seek to minimize harmful outputs (e.g. greenhouse gas emissions) during use and where possible be reusable.
  • Recoverable: Solutions seek to enable the recovery of raw materials at their highest possible value across multiple relevant infrastructure systems (e.g. recycling, composting) while not adding to contamination.
  • Accessibility and Inclusivity: Bag or bag alternatives should be considerate of all customers and employees of all abilities and ages.
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What Is Required

IDEAS PHASE: Submissions during the Ideas Phase will be required to provide the following.

  • Solution overview: Participants will provide a summary and overview of their solution. Visual, and design-oriented collateral is encouraged.
  • Technical overview: Participants will provide a technical overview of their solution. Please do not submit confidential information as part of your application to the Beyond the Bag Challenge. Submissions will not be considered confidential. For those innovators who would prefer to opt out of sharing their submission publicly, and instead have content reviewed only by the Partners and a panel of Judges, you may select the "non-publicly viewable" submission channel.
  • Business plan: Submissions present a business plan that clearly demonstrates a pathway to scale. For those who don’t have a formal business plan, please use the business model canvas. We strongly encourage all participants to complete a canvas.
  • Life cycle overview: Submissions will consider their environmental impact across the value chain, including an overview of selected materials, and the end-of-life recoverability potential for each material and the solution as a whole (including manufacturing and the process for end-of-life recovery). Participants are strongly encouraged to share life cycle assessment data if available.
  • Prototype: Participants will provide visual evidence of concept prototyping including, but not limited to, images/sketches, models, videos, or other relevant formats.

REFINEMENT PHASE: If selected to advance to the Refinement Phase, submissions will be required to provide the items listed below. During this Phase, the Partners may ask technical questions of participant submissions. 

  • Scale and production plan: Submissions will outline their pathways to scale and marketability, while also noting R&D or production ramp-up periods.
  • User research: Submissions will include evidence of human-centered user research, feedback and testing of their concepts or prototypes.
  • In-context prototyping plan, implementation, and findings report: Submissions will share visuals, takeaways, and design pivots from required in-context prototyping efforts during this phase.
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How To Participate

For complete contest rules, please see the Terms & Conditions.

Individuals, teams of individuals, and legal entities from all countries and territories are welcome and encouraged to participate.

Participants are welcome to submit solutions through either a public or non-public submission channel.

Publicly Viewable Submission Channel

For innovators who want their concepts to be visible to the public and to receive development support from the entire OpenIDEO community submit here. This allows the submissions to be viewable to the public.

If you don’t have a fully formed solution, but have an early-stage concept, we encourage you to sign up here in addition to Public Channel to be matched with other innovators.

Please do not submit confidential information as part of your application to the Beyond the Bag Challenge.

Non-Publicly Viewable Submission Channel
We understand that not all innovators will want to share their ideas publicly. To account for this, we have created a submission channel for those innovators or companies who wish to opt out of sharing their ideas openly with the broader public. If this is you, and you would prefer your idea to be viewable only to a panel of Judges, please select the non-publicly viewable submission channel.

Please note that by opting for the non-publicly viewable submission channel, you will not be able to take advantage of the OpenIDEO community to generate feedback, build upon one another's ideas, or receive targeted comments and questions from our global network of innovators.

Please do not submit confidential information as part of your application to the Beyond the Bag Challenge.

Advanced Solutions
Large companies who have solutions ready to scale, and XYZ additional criteria from Partners should apply here. This submission track should only be considered by existing, large-scale companies and participants will be required to demonstrate market/scale-readiness and sustainability. Submission requirements will differ from the Innovation Challenge, and “Advanced Solutions” applicants will not be eligible to participate in the Accelerator program. Instead, these applicants will be required to conduct and complete formal testing, certifications, and life cycle requirements in preparation for piloting opportunities (where applicable).

Please do not submit confidential information as part of your application to the Beyond the Bag Challenge.

Questions? Contact us at for more information.

To submit a response to either the public or non-public submission channel, participants must agree to the full Challenge Terms & Conditions and all of the included submission requirements.

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Additional Resources

Please review this list of Additional Resource links to help you get started.

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FAQ and Definitions

We’re glad you have questions. For answers to your legal, IP, and technical questions related to this Challenge, please visit the Challenge FAQ page. For answers to common open innovation Challenge questions, please visit the standard OpenIDEO FAQ page. 

Below are common terms and their definitions:

  • Platform:
  • Challenge: Open call on
  • Participant: Person, as an individual or representing a company, who engages on the platform through commenting or registering
  • Innovator: A participant who submits an idea in the platform
  • Advanced Solution: existing industry-leading solutions emerging from the Challenge - to be updated with Partner input
  • Idea: A concept submitted by an Innovator on the platform
  • Shortlist: An idea advanced to in-context prototyping
  • In-context prototyping: Tests run by Shortlist teams to advance learnings
  • Top Idea: A winning concept that receives funding and other support
  • Accelerator: Multi-month program for select Top Ideas to grow and scale their solutions
  • Primary Packaging: The packaging in direct contact with the product and serves the purpose of protecting or preserving the product (for example an aluminum beverage can or a plastic aspirin bottle) that contains the product on the shelf prior to sale 
  • Secondary packaging: The packaging (such as a bag) that a product is transported in from point of sale to final customer destination
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Who's Involved

The Beyond the Bag Challenge is an open innovation initiative seeking to identify and commercialize existing and future solutions to replace the single-use plastic retail bag. This Challenge was launched by the Consortium to Reinvent the Retail Bag, an ambitious collaboration convened by Closed Loop Partners with founding partners CVS Health, Target and Walmart. OpenIDEO is the Challenge’s innovation partner.

Learn more.

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Join the Challenge
Join the Challenge
Challenge Team:

Natalia Vasquez

Program Manager

Ashley Tillman

Community Lead

Chris Krohn

Program Lead

Robyn Park

Content Marketing Manager

Brett Watson

Performance Marketing Specialist

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