Innovation through co-creation

In 2018, plastic waste made the headlines of the world’s biggest newspapers and magazines. We saw the problem and created a returnable shopping bag that helps to address this challenge. Over our 170-year history, we have learned the power of conversations and true partnerships. The dialogues we have with our clients pave the way for innovative projects that meet the needs of our service users and raise the bar in sustainability.

Consider this: Our innovative returnable shopping bag can be used and washed several times, with an expected lifetime for this fabric bag of at least 4 years. In that time period, one consumer who uses just 2 plastic bags per week is responsible for 416 plastic bags. Let us tell you how we developed it.

The beauty of washable bags

For its 125th birthday, the Academic Bookstore in Finland shared a special present with its customers. “It all started during a conversation we had with our client. The idea was to replace plastic bags with returnable shopping bags,”says Sales and Business Development Manager Ilkka Eskola, who ran the project with Sales Representative Johanna Riihimäki. 

The basic idea for this innovation is straightforward: The shopping bags are available for consumers from the check-out counter in the shop for a small deposit. If the bag is dirty or damaged, it can be returned to the shop and the deposit is returned. Lindstrom then takes care of washing and repairing that bag and delivers it back to the shop for the next user.

As an added treat for their customers, the Academic Bookstore got Finnish artist Ville Andersson involved in designing the bag. But a feature for the tech savvy was also included: the bags can be equipped with RFID chips that signal to us how many bags are in use and how often and how many times the bags are washed during their lifetime. One might say this is a fine example of smart art.


An idea that saves a million plastic bags annually

The Academic Bookstore returnable shopping bags were a big success. So much so that very soon after their launch, we collaborated with another client on a similar project. As part of a customer loyalty programme, we also helped K-Supermarket Hertta in Helsinki offer its customers 10,000 similar returnable bags for groceries. This is projected to eliminate the need for one million plastic bags annually!

As Johanna Riihimaki adds with pride: “In both cases, the returnable bags are made out of the same fabric we use in our workwear. This makes them extra durable. Our garments’ average lifecycle is three years, and when used in shopping bags, the textile can last even longer. After this period, the bags can be recycled. We constantly search for new ways to recycle out-of-use textiles.”

Now imagine what can be done for the planet if more businesses and consumers decided to join us in taking the next step towards sustainability.

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