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103 Algramo – Refill the future

Circular Economy Podcast Episode 103 Algramo - Refill is the future

Reusable packaging startup Algramo is going from strength to strength, and we hear from Brian Bauer and Chris Baker on why customers in Chile, the US and the UK are buying into this.

Algramo’s founder, Jose Manuel Moller, came up with a brilliant idea for reusable packaging to help what he called the poverty tax, paid by people who shopped at convenience stores. Those small, local stores sell everyday groceries and household staples, but often in small format packages. That means people often paid around 40% more, per gram or per litre, for the same product they could buy in a bigger format in a supermarket.

In the last couple of years, Algramo has gone from strength to strength, and has started a trial in the UK with Lidl, a German international discount retail chain that operates over 11,000 stores across Europe and the United States.

Algramo is working with Nestle, Unilever, and Walmart in the US, and launched a user-app in 2022. It’s also won several big awards, including the Most Innovative Reuse Company for Consumer Packaging Goods, at the 2022 Reusies awards.

We hear about the Lidl trial, a new project for ‘on the go’ reusable packaging, and hear about innovative packaging and dispensers for liquid home care products. We’ll learn more about what motivates customers to choose reuse, and how reuse rates improve as the new concept becomes ‘normalised’. We also discuss the potential for gamification, and how that could help popularise reuse. 

Podcast host Catherine Weetman is a circular economy business advisor, workshop facilitator, speaker and writer.  Her award-winning book: A Circular Economy Handbook: How to Build a More Resilient, Competitive and Sustainable Business includes lots of practical examples and tips on getting started.  Catherine founded Rethink Global in 2013, to help businesses use circular, sustainable approaches to build a better business (and a better world).

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Read on for a summary of the podcast and links to the people, organisations and other resources we mention.

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Links we mention in the episode:

Guest bios

Chris Baker is the UK Country Manager at Algramo, a technology-led refill platform enabling consumers to purchase the amount of product they want at an affordable price. Chris launched Algramo UK in partnership with Lidl GB.

 Prior to Algramo Chris was General Manager at KeepCup, known worldwide for its bright, bold and instantly recognisable reusable cups. Chris was responsible for all functions, focused on delivering low impact, socially responsible products that are fit for purpose, and challenge how we think about consumption.

 Chris was a founding member of TerraCycle Europe – global leaders in ‘recycling the non-recyclable’ and one of the fastest growing environmental companies in the world. As a disrupter in the recycling world for nearly a decade, Chris has in-depth knowledge of the issues faced by the industry and understands the urgent need to reduce consumption.

Previously, Chris worked on sustainable packaging for food giant Kraft Foods, building on experience in product design, manufacturing and packaging technology. 

Brian Bauer is able to move between academia where he co-instructed an Applied Circular Economics course at Harvard for 4 years and the startup world where he leads Circular Economy & Institutional Partnerships at Algramo.

He applies his knowledge in sustainability, technology & policy into creating value by leveraging the circular economy movement into business model innovation.

He connects a network of experts keen to collaborate on innovative upstream waste management solutions. He is keen to explore how plastic packaging can be used in a circular manner that provides the benefits of plastic, without the impacts of mismanaged plastic waste.

He is proud to have had his proposals win Algramo: Top Idea in the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s $1 Million Circular Design Challenge, MIT Solve Circular Economy Challenge, and First place in the National Geographic’s Ocean Plastic Innovation Challenge.

If you are interested in collaborating: brian@algramo.com

Interview Transcript

Click here to open the transcript…

Want to find out more about the circular economy?

If you’d like to learn more about the circular economy and how it could help your business, why not listen to Episode 1, or read our guide: What is the Circular Economy

To go deeper, you could buy Catherine’s book, A Circular Economy Handbook: How to Build a More Resilient, Competitive and Sustainable Business. This comprehensive guide uses a bottom-up, practical approach, and includes hundreds of real examples from around the world, to help you really ‘get’ the circular economy.  Even better, you’ll be inspired with ideas to make your own business more competitive, resilient and sustainable. 

Please let us know what you think of the podcast – and we’d love it if you could leave us a review on iTunes, or wherever you find your podcasts.  Or send us an email

Podcast music

Thanks to Belinda O’Hooley and Heidi Tidow, otherwise known as the brilliant, inventive and generous folk duo, O’Hooley & Tidow for allowing me to use the instrumentals from the live version of Summat’s Brewin’ as music for the podcast. You can find the whole track (inspired by the Copper Family song “Oh Good Ale”) on their album, also called Summat’s Brewin’.  Or, follow them on Twitter.

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