As a global ocean cleanup company, 4ocean’s mission is to recover and recycle ocean plastic, advocate for sustainable innovation and inspire people around the world to reduce their consumption of single-use plastic. Rachael Lobeck, Public Relations, discusses their origin and ultimate goals.

Discuss the history of 4ocean. How did it develop and who was involved? The founders of 4ocean are Andrew Cooper and Alex Schulze. Andrew grew up in Orlando, FL. Being from a landlocked city, surfing trips over to Cocoa Beach fed his love for the ocean. His passion for the sport of surfing quickly developed into a desire to care for the ocean. After graduating from Florida Atlantic University in 2014 with a degree in Business Management and Entrepreneurship, Andrew spent the beginning stages of his career continuing to feed his love for the ocean. He worked as a fishing charter guide, private yacht deckhand, Sea Tow captain and surf instructor.

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4ocean’s OPR vessel.

Alex grew up in Marco Island on the west coast of Florida. He spent most of his free time at the beach, surrounding himself with all things water. Growing up fishing, diving and surfing, Alex’s natural affinity with the ocean was the gateway to his future endeavors. Alex also graduated from Florida Atlantic University in 2014 with a degree in Business Management and Entrepreneurship. He spent his early career as a licensed boat captain, provided fishing charters and boat tours.

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4ocean’s community beach cleanup.

During summer of 2015, Andrew and Alex embarked on a surf trip to Bali in search of big waves. However, what they found were beaches covered in garbage. After paddling through a devastating amount of plastic in the ocean and watching fishermen pull their boats through mounds of trash, they returned home with an urgent desire to clean the world’s oceans. They did not know it at the time, but in that moment, 4ocean was born.

What is 4ocean’s mission? What kind of work does it do? 4ocean is a global ocean cleanup company: recovering and recycling ocean plastic, advocating for sustainable innovation and inspiring people around the world to reduce their consumption of single-use plastic. Global cleanups are funded entirely through the sale of products, where every item purchased funds the removal of at least one pound of trash from the ocean. By creating jobs, using the latest technology and raising awareness about the impact of trash in the ocean, 4ocean is building the first economy for ocean plastic while creating a cleaner, more sustainable future for the ocean.

It has been more than two years since co-founders, Andrew and Alex, opened the doors of 4ocean. The Florida-based company now employs more than 300 people, has removed more than 6 million pounds of trash and plastic from the ocean and coastlines, and has expanded globally with operations in Bali and Haiti. 4ocean has partnered with more than 15 different nonprofit organizations in support of marine conservation.
What do 4ocean events involve? 4ocean hosts community beach cleanups in order to bring the local community together. It is a great opportunity to educate the public on the ocean plastic pollution crisis and bring awareness as to why we should be reducing our plastic consumption. Education and awareness are key components to 4ocean’s mission.

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Top: Left: 4ocean’s location in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.
Middle: Community cleanup hosted in Daytona Beach, FL.
Right: Single-use plastic water bottles are commonly found at 4ocean community cleanup events.

What kind of tools does 4ocean use to clean up the ocean? 4ocean has cleanup operations in Florida, Haiti and Indonesia where are captains and crews work seven days a week cleaning the ocean and coastlines. They pull in the trash with their nets from boats. 4ocean is also currently investing in and testing new technology that will clean the ocean in a more efficient way.

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Refusing single-use plastic straws is a great way to do your part in reducing ocean plastic pollution.

How much has been cleaned up since the company started? 4ocean crews have removed over 6 million pounds of trash and plastic from the ocean and coastlines.
What kind of things do you make out of the plastic you collect from the ocean? How is it re-purposed? How much of it is? 4ocean uses a very small amount of recycled ocean plastic and ocean glass in our bracelets (less than 5 percent). Our colored cords are made from post-consumer recycled plastic bottles and our beads are made from post-consumer recycled glass bottles. The charm is made from stainless steel. The remaining material is all post-consumer recycled. We are hard at work on a solution and in our trials thus far, we have found that the UV degradation and contamination that ocean plastic experiences from exposure to harsh conditions make it unable to be the only plastic source for our bracelets at this time.

Recyclable and non-recyclable materials are sorted, compressed into bales, and either turned into raw materials that are used to create new products or stored for future use. At our South Florida location, everything we cannot recycle is taken to Solid Waste Authority (the most efficient, lowest emission facility in the country) where it is turned into energy. At our Bali and Haiti locations, everything that cannot be recycled is currently being stored for future use.

Does 4ocean work with any partners/other companies in their mission? Every month we partner with a different nonprofit focused around marine conservation. We release a new bracelet in partnership with them in order to raise awareness about a threatened marine animal or ecosystem. We also make donations to these nonprofit partners to support their crucial conservation efforts. We have partnered with more than 20 ocean-related nonprofits to date and welcome a new partner every month. Some of our partners include:
• BirdLife International
• CarbonFund.org
• Conservation International
• Coral Restoration Foundation
• Earth Day Network
• Florida Atlantic University Marine Research Lab
• Moffit Cancer Center
• Oceanic Preservation Society
• Project AWARE
• Ric O’Barry’s Dolphin Project
• Save The Manatee Club
• SeaLegacy
• The Marine Mammal Center
• Whale and Dolphin Conservation

How does one get involved in the organization? While our cleanup crews are employees of 4ocean (check out our career page for job listings), a few ways we are telling people they can get involved is to:
• Say no to single-use plastic and use sustainable alternatives such as a refillable water bottle or shopping bag.
• Join the cleanup movement! It is estimated that up to 90 percent of ocean plastic comes from land-based sources. When you see trash on the ground, pick it up, do not pass it up.
• Educate and raise awareness. Tag three friends and introduce them to our social channels so they can join the cleanup movement.

What is coming up for 4ocean? We are currently investing in and testing new technology to clean the ocean. We are also getting ready to launch new products that will uphold 4ocean’s one-pound pledge. | WA

For more information, e-mail info@4ocean.com.

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