Beyond the Bag Challenge

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

  • Future forward, tech-enabled solutions that seek to disrupt the retail and delivery industry, including software and hardware
  • Cutting edge solutions that minimize or eliminate the need for bags altogether, including reusables and new materials

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The Opportunity
  • Exposure and face-time with Leading Retailers including CVS Health, Target, and Walmart and a growing list of Partners
  • Funding: Eligible Winners will receive a portion of $1 million of non-equity funding ranging from $50 to $200K
  • Media Coverage and Visibility: Participants are elevated through the highly public Challenge, with coverage in Fast Company and Bloomberg, among other news outlets

Learn more+

What's happening now
Participants were welcome to submit solutions to the Beyond the Bag Challenge through one of three submission channels. Learn more about each channel.


For decades, the single-use plastic bag reigned as the dominant design solution for getting a purchase home. But that popularity comes at a great cost. It’s estimated that we use 100 billion single-use plastic bags per year in the U.S. alone and less than 10 percent of these are recycled. While the convenience of the plastic retail bag can’t be disputed, the negative impact – considering its short use (12 minutes, on average) and long lifespan (400+ years by some estimates) – have led to rising consumer concern, advocacy campaigns, and regulatory bans and fees.

The two main challenges with today’s bags stem from raw material usage and material recovery after-use. Today, the majority of single-use plastic bags are made from low-cost, fossil fuel-derived virgin plastic. They are not compostable and although technically recyclable in a separated waste stream with other flexible film plastics, bags generally wind up in the landfill, in the natural environment, or in the wrong recycling stream. Additionally, many customers are unsure of the most sustainable choice, as alternatives made from paper or reusable bags made from thicker plastic (usually polyethylene), cotton, woven polypropylene, polyester, or bioplastic often have a​ ​higher environmental footprint.

Change is coming. The retail experience is rapidly evolving with new technologies and consumer preferences–many consumers are now shopping online, and interacting with autonomous systems—all of which open up opportunities for design innovation. The world needs alternatives to meet this change, and many in the retail industry have been working toward a more sustainable bag for years. Ultimately, however, no current retail bag option truly solves for delivering convenience to customers while delivering on expectations for sustainability.

The Beyond the Bag Initiative, launched by the Consortium to Reinvent the Retail Bag, is calling on Innovators, suppliers, designers, and problem-solvers to join our Beyond the Bag Challenge and reinvent the timeless experience of getting goods home. To begin, participants are encouraged 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.

Challenge Journey

Pre-Launch Phase

Jul 21, 2020

Aug 3, 2020

Ideas Phase

Aug 3, 2020

Oct 2, 2020

Review Phase

Oct 5, 2020

Oct 30, 2020

Refinement Phase

Nov 2, 2020

Nov 20, 2020

Final Review Phase

Nov 23, 2020

Jan 22, 2021

Winners Announcement Phase

Feb 16, 2021

Feb 17, 2021

Current Phase
Pre-Launch Phase
Let's get started!

Participants used this time to build a team, familiarize themselves with the information on this page, read the 'A New Way Home' report, and begin planning their solution.


View the Ideas


Challenge launched on Tuesday, August 3rd, 2020.

Get Updates
Ideas Phase
Submit your Beyond the Bag Idea!

Participants were 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 will fill out a survey to qualify. Preview questions here.


All were invited to read the 'A New Way Home' report to understand the opportunities, then shared ideas.


Submissions opened Tuesday August 3rd, 2020. Proposals were due by 11:30pm PT Friday October 2nd, 2020.

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 in early November, 2020.

View the ideas
Refinement Phase
Let's make ideas better through collaboration!

Join us in celebrating the 58 Shortlisted Ideas.


During the Refinement Phase, select concepts from the 58 Shortlisted Ideas 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.


Refinement materials are due by November 19th, 2020 at 5pm PST.

View the Shortlist
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.


The Final Review Phase will close on January 22nd, 2021.

Coming soon
Winners Announcement Phase
Explore and celebrate the 9 Winning Ideas.

Selected concepts are announced and awarded, moving towards Acceleration and Piloting.


Winners were announced in February 2021.

Meet the Winners
The Challenge

How might we transport goods from retailer 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

The Beyond the Bag Challenge aims to identify innovative new design solutions that serve the function of today’s single-use plastic retail bag, delivering ease and convenience for consumers while striving to lessen the impact on the environment. Successful solutions will strive to be compatible in diverse retail environments, deliver the ease and convenience of the single-use plastic bag, and reduce or eliminate the environmental impact. Solutions will address the packaging that transports products from point of sale to final customer destination. The Challenge is not seeking solutions to address inter-region shipping or long-distance delivery.

Opportunity Areas:

  • Software: Mobile Apps, IOT systems, POS systems or plug-ins, cloud-based solutions, B2B analytics and tracking, and more
  • Hardware: POS or checkout kiosks, reverse vending machines, robotics and delivery vehicles, RFID innovations, smart dispensers and lockers, and more
  • New materials and forms: Film, carriers, and bags made from a diverse range of new, innovative materials and cutting edge new form factors
  • Reusable: Reusable designs, systems, and services that seek to minimize or eliminate the need for single-use bags

Customer Interaction Points 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. Yet changes to this process are rapidly emerging, including automated self-checkout and in-store tracking technology that is changing where and how a transaction takes place. Retailers seeking to implement 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 seamlessly serve a continuous flow of shoppers. How might new solutions optimize effort for customers, cashiers, and retailers, create value, and reduce environmental harm? How do new, automated capabilities at shelves, carts, and checkout open opportunities for efficiency and sustainability in transferring products? 
  • In-Store Pickup: An increasing number of consumers are buying online and then picking up in-store—whether at a dedicated kiosk, curbside in their vehicles, or via storage lockers. The flow of product is also changing as there are new return channels and options are established. How might we design bag or bag alternatives into these physical spaces within and beyond the store where customers are now engaged? What opportunities might be afforded with this lead time between requesting products and transporting them? How might the digital experience suggest or incentivize a transaction free of single-use plastic bags?
  • Local Delivery from Retailer: The emerging appetite for localized community delivery services creates new opportunities for bag and bag alternatives as new stakeholders are involved, new needs arise, and the responsibilities of retailers, customers, and delivery couriers are redefined. 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 large number of 3rd-party gig services are also acting as a bridge — 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 efficient and sustainable 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 community, or in the reuse, return and disposal of a bag or bag alternative?

Review these Use Cases and Personas to get started.

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What Happens to My Idea?

Closed Loop Partners’ Center for the Circular Economy and Founding Partners CVS Health, Target and Walmart, along with other leading retailers, have committed to advancing the identification, acceleration, and scaling 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.

We offer Challenge participants the following types of support:

  • Exposure and facetime with Leading Retailers including CVS Health, Target and Walmart: The Consortium is actively looking for solutions to support in their pathways to scale, pilot in live retail environments, and partner with long-term. Retail Partners review submissions along with our Environmental Advisory Partners and external third-party experts to select the Shortlist and Winners. Shortlisted submissions will join Retail Partners for 1:1 Feedback Calls during Refinement. This exposure and collaboration will deepen throughout the Circular Accelerator.
  • Funding: Eligible Winners will receive a portion of $1 million of non-equity funding ranging from $50 to $200K. Promising solutions that choose to participate in the optional Circular Accelerator will be eligible for additional financial support both during and after the program to support scaling and pilot efforts.
  • IDEO design consulting: Drawing on decades of design, innovation, and venture development work IDEO designers will collaborate directly with Shortlisted teams. Those who choose to advance to the Circular Accelerator will receive custom design support across user desirability, technical viability, and business feasibility. IDEO designers will rev through rapid design iterations and tests, while supporting teams in preparation of and through their piloting efforts.
  • Media Coverage and Visibility: Throughout the Challenge, participants are elevated through the highly public Challenge, with coverage in Fast Company and Bloomberg, among other news outlets; winners will receive significant promotion!

Challenge Awards:

Winning Solutions 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 
  • Mid-stage Innovator Award: Growth stage concepts: Up to $100k USD  
  • Advanced Solutions Award: Established companies with innovation solutions will be considered for financial and in-kind support for testing and piloting

Accelerator and Pilot

The most promising early- and growth-stage winners have the option to advance to the Beyond the Bag Circular Accelerator to receive further assistance in scaling their solutions. These solutions will receive access to the retail and recovery-system industries to test and enhance their solutions. New design solutions that hold promise may be piloted by the Consortium. 

Some selected Advanced Solutions will also have access to testing and potential piloting opportunities in parallel to the Accelerator.

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 Circular Accelerator, who choose to participate, will not be required to provide an equity stake, warrant, or other investment commitment.

Following the Challenge, some teams chose to share their contact information in a public directory, and we encourage all to connect towards furthering the resolution of single use plastic bags. To be included in this directory, please fill out this form.

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Evaluation Criteria

Submissions will be evaluated according to the following criteria:

1. People: The solution seeks to maintain the convenience, efficiency and effectiveness of the single-use plastic bag for customers and retail employees alike.

  • Customer Performance: The solution is designed to delight the customer and enhances or maintains the customer experience compared to existing solutions. The solution will also meet the highest performance standards for its type – including supporting a weight of 17 to 22 pounds for a total distance of 125 feet.
  • Retailer Performance: The solution seeks to integrate into retailer environments and maintain or enhance the employee experience by supporting safe and efficient workflows and adding value (e.g. process flow, marketing, foot traffic).
  • Accessibility and Inclusivity: The solution is considerate of the abilities and ages of all customers and employees.
  • Health and Safety: The solution must consider human health and safety, and be in compliance with all local, state and federal regulations in their country of origin and with a plan to meet U.S. regulations. Review our Additional Resources to help you get started.

2. Business: The solution seeks to create realizable long-term value for retailers in a wide variety of environments in the North American market.

  • Feasibility: The solution is technically realizable and offers an attainable path forward towards broad implementation and adoption.
  • Viability: The solution creates sufficient value for the retailer (e.g. operational flow, costs, sustainability, marketing, brand-value) to cover operational costs and necessary capital investments.
  • Adaptability: The solution is designed for near-term commercial viability, and also is adaptable to the rapidly changing infrastructure, technology — such as self-checkout — and policy of tomorrow.
  • Marketplace: The solution is viable in a wide range of retail environments in North America, but may originate from global markets. The solution can be designed for broad implementation OR it can consider a regional marketplace approach that is scalable long-term.

3. Planet: The solution seeks to operate within a circular system and lessen or eliminate environmental and social harm in its sourcing, production, useful life and end-of-life.

  • Sourcing and Production: The solution uses sustainably and ethically sourced materials (whether virgin and/or recaptured materials), is non-toxic and minimizes harmful impact (e.g. significant water, energy use, GHG emissions) in manufacturing. Third-party certifications and/or supporting documentation to support material claims are preferred, but not required.
  • Use: The solution seeks to minimize harmful outputs (e.g. GHG emissions, toxins, microplastics) during use and where possible be reusable.
  • Recoverable: The solution seeks to enable the recovery of raw materials at their highest possible value across multiple relevant infrastructure systems (e.g. reuse, recycle, compost) while not adding to contamination. The solution has the potential to be separated via a joint collection stream into the relevant end-of-life path (e.g. reuse, recycle, compost), and consideration should be given to any required infrastructure changes needed to enable recovery.
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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 growing list of Beyond the Bag Partners and a panel of Judges, you may select the "non-publicly viewable" submission channel.
  • Business plan: Participants will 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: Participants will detail their environmental impact across the value chain and product life cycle, 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, Beyond the Bag 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.
  • Prototyping plan, implementation, and findings report: Submissions will share visuals, takeaways, and design pivots from required DIY 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

Later-stage, established companies with standing relationships with Consortium Partners or similar retailers and who have ready-to-scale solutions 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. 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.


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 Resources 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 the Beyond the Bag Challenge, please visit the Challenge FAQ page. For answers to common innovation Challenge questions, please visit the standard OpenIDEO FAQ page

Additional questions? Contact us at for more information.

Below are common terms and their definitions:

  • Partner: This Challenge is a part of the broader Beyond the Bag Initiative, launched by the Consortium to Reinvent the Retail Bag, an ambitious collaboration convened by Closed Loop Partners’ Center for the Circular Economy and Founding Partners CVS Health, Target and Walmart. Kroger and Walgreens support the initiative, among a growing list of Partners. OpenIDEO is the Challenge’s Innovation Partner.
  • 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: Established companies with standing relationships with Consortium Partners or similar retailers and who have ready-to-scale solutions  
  • Idea: A concept submitted by an Innovator on the platform
  • Shortlist: An Idea advanced to prototyping
  • DIY Prototyping: Tests run by Shortlist teams to advance learnings
  • Winner: A winning concept that receives funding and other support
  • Accelerator: Multi-month program for select Winners to grow and scale their solutions
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Who's Involved

The Challenge aims to identify innovative new design solutions that serve the function of today’s single-use plastic retail bag, delivering ease and convenience for consumers while striving to lessen the impact on the environment. The Challenge is a part of the Beyond the Bag Initiative, a global initiative launched by Closed Loop Partners’ Center for the Circular Economy with a growing list of Partners including Founding Partners CVS Health, Target, and Walmart. DICK’S joins as the Sports & Outdoors Sector Lead Partner, Kroger as the Grocery Sector Lead Partner, and Walgreens as a Supporting Partner, alongside Conservation International and Ocean Conservancy as Environmental Advisory Partners. OpenIDEO is the Consortium's Innovation Partner. Learn more at

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Translated Resources

To make the Beyond the Bag Challenge inclusive and accessible to the global community, the Challenge brief and Ideas Phase Submission Questions have been translated into multiple languages below.

Note: All proposals are required to be submitted in English.

Challenge Brief

Ideas Phase Submission Questions

Publicly Viewable

Non-Publicly Viewable

Advanced Solution

“How to Submit an Idea” 1-Pager

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Subscribe for Updates
Subscribe for UpdatesExplore the Shortlist
Challenge Team:

Natalia Vasquez

Program Lead

Chris Krohn

Senior Portfolio Lead

Robyn Park

Content Marketing Manager

Brett Watson

Performance Marketing Specialist

Danielle Shingleton

Senior Community Manager

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