Afternoon Coffee: Winter power outages remain in Texas; Jobless claims record higher-than-expected growth; Search for an alternative to single-use plastic bags; BuyerQuest is acquired

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Power outages in Texas dropped below 1 million on Thursday for the first time in four days, but many still remain without electricity or safe drinking water after winter storms wreaked havoc on the state’s power grid and utilities, according to the Associated Press.

About 560,000 homes and businesses in Texas were still without electricity on Thursday morning, down from 3 million the day prior. Texas’ grid manager, under fire for its response to the winter storm, warned that outages could still fluctuate during hours of peak energy demand, the article said.

The week of extreme weather has led to the deaths of more than 30 people, some of whom struggled to keep warm inside their homes. While the electricity grid tries to keep up with demand, the snowy weather also jeopardized drinking water systems throughout the state.

Electricity and water problems have been seen throughout the rest of the United States as the icy weather treks east.

“These are the most dangerous conditions we’ve seen in the history of (Portland General Electric),” Dale Goodman, a director at PGE in Oregon, told the Associated Press.

First-time jobless claims increase to 861,000

First-time claims for jobless claims totaled 861,000 last week, which was higher than the expected 773,000 number, according to CNBC.

The total indicates a slight increase from the previous week as the labor market continues to struggle amid the Covid-19 pandemic. It was also the highest level in a month. Meanwhile, continuing claims declined again, edging just below 4.5 million, the article said.

“We’re still at the mercy of the virus, so it’s still a bifurcated economy,” Liz Ann Sonders, Chief Investment Strategist at Charles Schwab, told CNBC.

Retailers look to find alternatives to single-use plastic bags

Americans waste 100 billion single-use plastic bags a year. In an effort to combat this waste, some of the country’s largest retailers like Walmart, Target, Kroger and CVS teamed up with the Beyond the Bag Initiative to find and fund replacements to the plastic bag, according to the Fast Company.

The project announced nine winners out of hundreds of entries. The solutions range from biodegradable bags meant to disappear into soil to internet-connected bags that gamify reuse, the article said. However, it’s complicated.

There may not be a one-size-fits-all answer. It’s likely retailers will need different packaging solutions for different goods, like curbside pickup or home delivery.

“There is no one answer, no one-size-fits-all solution,” Kate Daly, Managing Director of the Center for the Circular Economy at Closed Loop Partners, which coordinated the contest alongside the design firm IDEO, told the Fast Company. “With the partners we have on board, you could buy a soccer ball, groceries, packaged goods, a computer keyboard — any number of things that need to be carried home in a different way.”

The ODP Corporation acquires eProcurement and P2P vendor BuyerQuest

The ODP Corporation, a B2B business services and products provider, on Thursday announced the acquisition of BuyerQuest Holdings Inc., a software known for its eProcurement and procure-to-pay (P2P) offerings.

In a press release announcing the acquisition, ODP said the deal will accelerate the company’s technology development while aiming to provide a cohesive platform integrating e-commerce, P2P and supply chain platforms to improve how businesses buy and sell.

Read more about ODP's acquisition of BuyerQuest on Spend Matters.

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