Beyond the Bag Challenge Frequently Asked Questions


We’re glad you have questions. This page has answers to your most pressing legal, IP, and technical questions related to this Challenge. For answers to common innovation Challenge questions, please visit the standard OpenIDEO FAQ page. If you have a question for OpenIDEO, Closed Loop Partners or Partners CVS Health, Target or Walmart, please email us directly at circular@IDEO.com.

In-Scope Solutions and Criteria Questions: 

What is the Beyond the Bag initiative and why does it exist?
  • The sheer scale of the issue and the social and environmental consequences connected to the current retail bag system calls for collaboration to find more sustainable solutions. To accelerate innovation for these much-needed solutions, CVS Health, Target and Walmart have joined with Closed Loop Partners, and are collectively committing $15 million to fund this historic consortium. 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.
Why should I participate in the Beyond the Bag Challenge?
  • Beyond the Bag Challenge winners are eligible to receive a portion of $1 million in funding. Awardees may also be selected to participate in a multi-month accelerator cohort to help scale their solutions with support and mentorship from investors, packaging and supply chain leaders, recovery infrastructure experts, prospective customers and business leaders, and IDEO. All participants in the Publicly Viewable Submission Channel, and all winners, benefit from public visibility, and often, media coverage.
How do you define bag and bag alternative?
  • We are open to any solution that meets the Evaluation Criteria and are open to new designs and ideas that expand these definitions. Current retail bags vary across companies and geographies, but generally are flexible containers with a hole at the top used to hold goods of up to 22 lbs and carried a distance of more than 175 feet, often with handles. Bag alternatives are any solutions that contain and/or transport goods from retail to destination, but are not a bag-shaped and carried solution. Solutions must be recoverable and address getting goods home; however, ideas may also include boxes and other portage containers, and/or consider reuse and alternative delivery systems.
Does 'recoverable' mean reused? Or can 'recoverable' mean composted?
  • Recovery refers to the collection, processing, and utilization of a bag or bag alternative’s raw material components after a bag or bag alternative is discarded at the end of its life. For solutions to be recoverable and kept out of landfills, their raw material components must have value to end markets that can use the materials and to the various businesses that would meet the needs of those markets. Recovery markets can include, but aren't limited to, recycling and composting. Reusable solutions do fall into the category of recoverable. Applicants should review the Additional Resources page to identify relevant standards and certifications for recyclability and compostability.
What is the priority between recyclability, biodegradability, compostability of solutions?
  • The Challenge seeks to identify the best solutions to recover materials, understanding that those options vary by region and available recovery infrastructure, and will need to offer a competitive value proposition with the current retail bag. The Consortium to Reinvent the Retail Bag is identifying opportunities to enhance and invest in recovery infrastructure in the United States in parallel to their Beyond the Bag Challenge. Aligning new design solutions with available recovery infrastructure is critical, as well as avoiding any unintended consequences of replacement materials. More information on the end-of-use pathway for diverse bag typologies will be made available in our report, A New Way Home.
There are products already commercially available in the marketplace right now that are certified compostable, and use renewable resources. What's different about the products you are interested in?
  • In order for bag or bag alternatives to scale and truly replace current retail bags, they must also have comparable performance, price competitiveness, and the ability to scale into diverse retail systems. This initiative seeks to identify such solutions, or identify solutions that meet other Evaluation Criteria and support them in advancing towards performance and price competitiveness.
Are you looking for a single solution?
  • We anticipate there may be a variety of solutions at different stages of development that could be adopted at different stages to accommodate evolving recovery infrastructure and varying geographic regions and contexts.
For the Ideas Phase (the first phase of submissions), do we need a prototype ready, or are concepts OK?
  • For the Ideas Phase (Phase 1) we are requiring at minimum a visual representation of your concept. This includes but is not limited to images, diagrams, or 2D / 3D graphics. Of course a more developed prototype can only help to increase your odds of advancing, so we encourage you to begin planning this early. For the Refinement Phase (Phase 2), we will be requiring evidence of a physical prototype of your solution, along with evidence of testing and feedback with users.

Material, Performance and Technical Questions: 

What are the specific "performance standards" that the Partners need for the solution?
  • Your application should include information on how this solution will work from a technical standpoint. We will be looking for concepts that meet or exceed, or have the potential to meet or exceed, the performance of single-use plastic bags. In general, we will be assessing concepts from a holistic standpoint, examining the entire business case, environmental impact, and scalability. Please see our Additional Resources and our Evaluation Criteria to help you get started. Below you’ll find some technical features that should be incorporated into a new bag or bag alternative solution:
  • Easy for customers to use
  • Printability (i.e. ability to accommodate a logo): Certain inks may impact a product’s compostability. Participants should consider the end-to-end viability of their technologies, including any factors that may impact end-of-life goals. 
  • Workload neutral or positive for retail staff (i.e. doesn’t add time to cashier flow or create ergonomic problems)
  • Considers the current retail environment’s operational needs: e.g. checkout spaces are built with finite space for bags
  • Durable and water-resistant to maintain structural integrity during use
  • Meets highest US regulatory standards, such as carrying 17lbs if single-use, 22lbs and containing 15 liters if reusable, over 125 feet
Will you consider alternative fibers such as algae or biopolymers?
  • We are interested to see solutions that use a diversity of materials that meet the performance standards and other criteria of the Challenge.  
Are there already defined guidelines on which certification institutions/standard methods would be accepted to validate sustainable feedstock, reusability, or recoverability?
  • There are numerous guidelines and standards that Challenge applicants may reference in their applications. Please see our Additional Resources page for detailed information. 
Do Partners prefer ideas adhere to U.S. requirements or other standards such as from the E.U.?
  • With global standards continuously evolving as new policy is introduced, and also recognizing that standards don’t exist for every type of bag or bag alternative, we are not adhering to one geography’s standards. If your solution is a reusable bag, the solution will meet, or show potential to meet, the highest performance standards for reusables in the US, including supporting weight. If not a reusable bag, please reference standards or certifications relevant to your solution type in either the US or your country of origin with future intent to achieve approval in the US market. Please see our Additional Resources page for information to get started. 
What carbon footprint metrics will be used for transportation of goods in all aspects of the supply chain?
  • In the application you will be asked to state how you have incorporated additional sustainability material attributes (beyond recoverability) into your solution. You may reference carbon footprint metrics related to your solution in the application.  

Post-Challenge Accelerator and Pilot Questions: 

I’d like to apply for the Beyond the Bag Challenge but I’m not interested in participating in the Beyond the Bag Circular Accelerator. Can I still get involved?
  • Yes. There is no obligation for any Beyond the Bag Challenge applicant or winner to enter the Accelerator. Select winners will be invited to participate in the Accelerator and they may choose whether they would like to participate or not. 
If I don’t get selected as a Challenge Winning Solution may I still apply separately to participate in the Beyond the Bag Circular Accelerator?
  • No, only Challenge winners will be invited to join the Accelerator since they have already been through an extensive review process. 
If I don’t join the Beyond the Bag Circular Accelerator will I still have access to piloting opportunities?
  • Yes, on a case-by-case basis select winners from the “Advanced Solutions” cohort may be invited to participate in piloting opportunities with Partners. 
Is it a requirement of entry into the Beyond the Bag Circular Accelerator that I allow Beyond the Bag Partners to invest in my company?
  • No. Beyond the Bag Challenge participants are not required to provide an equity stake, warrant, or other investment commitment. Challenge and Accelerator participants are still eligible for consideration for investment if they so choose.

Legal and IP Questions:

Will you own the Intellectual Property associated with my proposed solution?
  • No, you own that. No Partner in Beyond the Bag will have any ownership rights over your IP.
I’m still concerned about my IP. How will you protect my company’s ideas?
  • We value and respect your intellectual property. However, for the first phase of the application, we ask that you submit non-confidential high-level overview information about your proposal, including your company name and the basic outline of your proposed solution. If more detailed information about your idea is required in the next stage of review, we will work with you to ensure that appropriate measures are in place to protect your confidential information.
I’m concerned about section 3 in the Terms and Conditions where it states that IDEO can use my content in perpetuity. What does this mean?
  • This means that IDEO reserves the rights to share a brief summary of your company and team if and when said team is selected as a winner of the Challenge. This is for the purposes of publicizing and celebrating the winners of the Beyond the Bag Challenge at appropriate events and across different media. IDEO also reserves the right to include a summary of your concept on the Challenge web site and in newsletters or other promotional content for the Challenge, as you may have seen in an email last week. IDEO will NOT share any information from “non-public” concepts aside from the title without prior consent.  
I see the emphasis on “not submitting confidential information,” what does this mean?
  • The content that you are submitting in the Ideas Phase of the Challenge should be information that you are comfortable sharing with IDEO, Closed Loop Partners, Consortium to Reinvent the Retail Bag Partners and a panel of judges. The public submission track allows for your submitted content to be viewable by the public, while the non-public option prevents your submission content from being viewable to the public and instead is viewable only to the aforementioned group of Partners for judging purposes only. Because your ideas will be reviewed by several people, including judges and members of the Beyond the Bag team, we encourage participants not to submit information they are uncomfortable sharing with a panel of reviewers.