Ed note: This post originally had IDEO as the sole creator of the challenge. It has been updated to reflect that Closed Loop Partners launched the challenge with IDEO as their innovation partner.
It’s no secret that despite efforts by grocery stores and retailers to reduce the amount of plastic they pack into the waste stream, shoppers still use a massive amount of the stuff every single day.
Because of this, Closed Loop Partners in partnership with design agency IDEO recently put out a call for innovative ideas around generating less retail waste with its Beyond the Bag challenge. The ideas range from new plastic-free reusable bags to entire grocery store concepts that use bulk dispensing systems.
Here are some of the concepts I thought were pretty interesting:
Repurposing Bags for 3D Printed Crates
A company called re:3D has proposed a system that would take plastic waste produced at retail and repurpose it at retail for 3D-printed crates. The systems would use the company’s Gigabot X 3D printer, which can print from plastic waste that has been ground up into pellets. Their proposed system would put printers at the retail point of presence.
A Wallet That Turns Into a Shopping Bag
Moved by Tomorrow has proposed a wallet that converts into a reusable shopping bag. According to the company, the bag would hold up to 150 pounds of total goods.
Reusing Back of House Boxes for Take Home
Already in use by some warehouse stores like Costco and some more sustainably minded grocery stores, Nathan Lee proposes a system that could be used by any grocery store: replace plastic bags with the cardboard boxes which were used to ship products to the store . While it seems simple, it’s always been surprising to me that more grocery stores don’t use this concept.
Denimcle: Turn Those Unfashionable Jeans Into a Shopping Bag
If you’re like me, you probably have lots of jeans that either don’t fit any more, are worn out, or aren’t in style anymore. Sure, you could give them to your local Goodwill (also a good thing), but another idea is to take those skinny jeans and turn them into a shopping bag.
The concept would involve a “Denimcle” kiosk at retail that would allow the user to turn in their old jeans and order a bag made of denim. While the processing of the demim to bag will be done off site, I still think there are number of people who would both donate their old jeans and those that would be open to using a bag made of denim.
The Filole Bulk-Food Waste Free Grocery Store
Smartbins, a maker of bulk bin dispensing systems, has created a proof of concept for an entire grocery store utilizes bulk dispensing and resuable take-home systems. Called Filole, the idea would utilize a system that automatically dispenses measured amounts of food then prints out a label with a price and product info the shopper can then use on reusable containers. Called the S1 system, which is modeled after the IKEA flatpack concept, Smartbins says its concept can be implemented as a whole-store system or one that can be used in an existing grocery store.
This is only a small sample of the ideas submitted to the Beyond the Bag challenge. I’d suggest you look at the submission page if you want to see more of the interesting concepts for reducing plastic waste in our local grocery store.