Contxto – Hailing from Santiago, Chile, the sole Latin American contender in the Ocean Plastic Innovation Challenge is Algramo.

Known in Chile for its repurposed sustainable products, the startup is one of 24 finalists from 13 countries developing solutions to the worsening environmental degradation of the Earth’s oceans.

This event in collaboration between National Geographic and Sky Ocean Ventures launched in February 2019, seeking to address plastic pollution in three strategic ways. 

  1. Identify industry opportunities to improve plastic waste management in the supply chain 
  2. Communicate the complex issue via data visualization 
  3. Design alternatives to single-use plastics 

Algramo is specifically part of the Circular Economy group where teams are developing scalable business models to diminish plastic dependency. With this, the company incentivizes consumers to invest in its cleaning product alternatives, diverting landfills in the process. 

Others in this sector included Hepi Circle and Keciper from Indonesia; Kabadiwalla Connect from India; Infinity Goods, Keko Box, Returnity, The Bulk Delivery Truck and Vessel from the United States, as well as Muuse from Singapore.

The diverse group of semi-finalists will compete in December before a winner is announced. 

Unilever collaboration 

This past May, Algramo collaborated with Unilever’s OMO brand to launch its new “smart packaging” standard. Attached to OMO-branded containers will be a chip similar to a debit card that will allow users to refill products.

In another collaboration with mobility startup EnelX, the innovation centers around tricycles. That’s to say, these electric devices are now going around neighborhoods carrying the proper equipment to refill bottles with the cleaning product.

Prior were refilling stations at various stores and warehouses, which still exist. With the tricycles, though, users can coordinate visits over the Algramo app, available on Android and Apple. This way, they can arrive at consumers’ homes without any additional shipping costs.

Chilean Sustainability Startup Algramo Competes In Ocean Plastic Innovation Challenge

With every refill also comes data pertaining to environmental impact, letting users know how much plastic they’re saving. Reports even say that users can receive money back based on their environmental impact. All of this is to get Chileans to recycle more. 

“In Chile, we recycle less than 9 percent of the plastic and have been promoting recycling for almost 40 years,” said Algramo CEO José Manuel Moller. ”We do not have another 40 years, we only have 11 years to reduce our emissions and we must change the way we face global warming.”

Instead of just encouraging people to recycle, we believe it is smarter to have people recharge their containers at an affordable and unpolluted price, so it is fair to give them money back for that.

Benefits of Algramo

Algramo develops consumer cleaning products that can be refilled in neighborhood storage containers throughout the capital city of Santiago. It also sells bulk food items.

High-quality products at tangible prices improve sales margins and allow customers to pay less for food and cleaning goods. By using returnable packaging, consumers avoid taxes on small units, sometimes costing 50 percent of the entire product. 

In the process, people can also reduce their carbon footprint with Algramo. Families can even avert making 2 kgs of trash a month. Over time, Algramo has opened 1,600 stores, served 220,000 customers, and avoided 180,2000 kgs of trash once destined for the landfill.