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May 4, 2021
Colorado, Maryland, and California have instituted plastic bans and are actively cracking down on waste.
With businesses finding ways to comply, 63% of consumers forget their reusable shopping bags when they enter the store, according to reuse company Fill It Forward.
With the pandemic making it more difficult to push reuse, the plastic problem has reached new heights, according to the Guelph, ON, Canada-based company’s Founder and CEO Matt Wittek.
Prior to March 2020, retailers, restaurants, and everyday consumers were headed in the right direction when it came to lessening their overconsumption of single-use plastic. The pandemic disrupted efforts to reduce the use of non-recyclable plastics, from grocery bags to plastic forks.
“There’s currently an overwhelming need to get back on track with reusables and sustainability, which is where Fill it Forward plays a key role,” says Wittek. “What lies ahead is motivating and inspiring people to reuse. From colleges and universities, household name corporations, major events, and even local fitness clubs, Fill it Forward will be continuing to build a community of change makers that are always giving.”
The company is trying to shift this consumption behavior so that when people leave their house, their checklist consists of keys, wallet, mask, and reusable shopping bag. They are doing so through their proprietary tech, which is a scan able barcode tag that affixes to bags people already own and motivates them to reuse.
“Our proprietary tech to help consumers remember their reusable shopping bags is the Reuse Tracker that connects to the free Fill it Forward app. With 63% of people forgetting their reusable shopping bags when they go into the store, we wanted to create something that incentives and ‘gamifies’ reuse,” says Wittek.
Every time a user scans the tracker through the app, their environmental impact is logged. This includes waste diverted from landfills, emissions saved, and plastic prevented from oceans. In addition to shopping bags, the Reuse Trackers can also be affixed to water bottles, drinkware, or any other reusable items that people already own.
“Soon we’ll also be launching a reminder system to help customers remember to bring their reusable bags into the store,” says Wittek. “The reminder function will have an immediate impact as customers can easily set time or geo-based reminders so that they never forget their reusable bags again.”
Each scan of a reusable bag will automatically donate to one of multiple clean water nonprofits.
“Fill it Forward has created a community that’s always giving. Every time users scan the Reuse Tracker, they are automatically funding charities around the globe that support nutritious food, clean water, hygiene, sanitation, and education projects,” says Wittek. “Our giving model is also unique in the sense that it’s recurring. With just one initial purchase of our Reuse Trackers that affix to reusables people already own, consumers are forever looped into our recurring giving model. This allows them to consistently fund charitable projects and track the progress within the app.”
Fill It Forward has partnered with charity:water, DIGDEEP, Wine to Water, and Second Harvest.
“With support from corporate partners, Fill it Forward has helped to provide funding for over 250 clean water projects globally including Tanzania, Asia, Latin America, India, Honduras, New Mexico, USA and 35 First Nations Communities in Ontario, Canada,” says Wittek.
Fill it Forward’s tech solution was recently recognized as a winner of the Beyond the Bag Challenge put on by Closed Loop Partners, Open IDEO, and major retailers in the U.S. to reinvent the retail bag. It is a multi-year collaboration across retail sectors that aims to identify, test and implement 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.
“Fill it Forward’s winning submission was the ‘bag tag’ and app initiative because it drives engagement and usability of bags already in circulation,” says Wittek. “The app-based technology allows shoppers to scan a Fill it Forward tag attached to their reusable bag to track their environmental impact, earn rewards, and give back by contributing to meaningful charitable projects.”
As part of the win, Fill it Forward also has been accepted into the Circular Accelerator program to receive further assistance in scaling out solutions.
Freelance writer, Waste360
Megan Greenwalt is a freelance writer based in Youngstown, Ohio, covering collection & transfer and technology for Waste360. She also is the marketing and communications advisor for a property preservation company in Valley View, Ohio, and a member of the Public Relations Society of America. Prior to her current roles, Greenwalt served as the associate editor of Waste & Recycling News for three years and as features editor for a local newspaper in Warren, Ohio, for more than five years. Greenwalt is a 2002 graduate of The Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio, where she earned her bachelor’s degree in journalism.
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