Estimates show that around 14 billion pounds of trash gets dumped into the ocean every year. The impact? Water pollution, marine organisms wash ashore dead with stomachs filled with plastic, and severe habitat disturbance are just some of the many ramifications. Worse, it feels like nobody the problem is continuing to grow and nobody is doing anything about it.
But this inaction is what drove Andrew Cooper and Alex Schulze, founders of 4ocean, to start a company that now boasts over 5 million pounds of ocean trash removed. So, how did they do it?
How It All Began
Andrew and Alex decided to take a surf trip to Bali. They saw first-hand the sheer amount of plastic in the ocean; a step further, they saw how it impacted the livelihoods of local fishermen and considered the impact the pollution had on marine animals.
Surprised that nobody was doing anything about ocean pollution in Bali, the college friends knew that they needed to do something themselves. Moreover, they realized the problem really wasn’t unique to Bali. This realization is what compelled them to make the 4ocean bracelet.
Since the beginning of 4ocean’s life, Andrew and Alex have made the guarantee to customers that each bracelet sale funds the removal of 1 pound of trash from the ocean.
How 4ocean Approaches Ocean Trash Removal
Aside from employing over 200 employees across 27 countries, 4ocean also employs the “latest technology to prevent, intercept, and remove trash from the ocean and coastlines.” One such technology is its Ocean Plastic Recovery Vessel. Announced in November 2018, the vessel is designed to aid in trash recovery but also to help in transporting large quantities of plastic.
The combination of technology and employees allows 4ocean to remove ocean trash 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. An impressive accomplishment given the company pays its employees only through the sales of its bracelets.
What Does the Future Hold for 4ocean?
Though 4ocean is already making material impact, it also needs to make money as a for-profit company. That’s a seemingly difficult task for a company paying people to remove trash from the ocean.
Cooper told SURFER, “Coke will start saying, ‘For every soda purchased, we’ll remove a bottle out of the ocean.'” A fairly similar idea to carbon credits, but for removing ocean trash.
Schulze, in the same interview, mentioned that the company hopes to continue partnering with other organizations, which is a huge part of how the company amplifies its impact.
There’s no doubt that 4ocean is doing something right for the environment. However, there’s also no doubt that 4ocean can’t remove all the ocean trash alone — other companies must join in the fight.
There’s also the question of whether 4ocean’s business model is truly sustainable. Competitors like The Ocean Cleanup have been more technology-oriented and venture-focused. In fact, the company has raised over $35 million from investors to sustain the company. Will 4ocean have to eventually pivot? We’ll have to see.