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4ocean cleans up record-breaking 30 million pounds of ocean plastic

4ocean has set the world record for most trash collected from our oceans by a single organisation – a whopping 30 million pounds and counting. To celebrate this achievement, let’s take a detailed look at the organisation’s journey.

You’d be hard pressed to find a beach that doesn’t have various sized pieces of plastic littering its shorelines these days, but one amazing organisation is on a mission to make that reality a thing of the past.

The team at 4ocean has broken the world record for collecting the most amount of ocean pollution by a single organisation. Retrieving 30 million pounds of waste from the sea has been no easy feat – and it all started with two guys on a surfing holiday.

In 2015, Alex Schulze and Andrew Cooper noticed the high level of ocean plastic pollution while catching waves in Bali, Indonesia.

The pair with local fishermen about the impact that plastic was having on their livelihoods, and soon realized they could build a business that paid captains and crews to recover man-made waste from the ocean instead of catching fish.

On the flight home, Alex and Andrew came up with ideas for products that would fund their mission. They decided on a bracelet – a wearable symbol of their cause that would open the door for more conversations about plastic pollution.

The bracelet also acts as a physical reminder for the wearer to make eco-conscious choices, such as refusing single-use plastics. Not long after, their mission was set into motion and continues to expand around the world.

‘All of our captains and crews live in the communities we serve and are hired as full-time employees,’ says Alex.

Our bracelets are handcrafted by artisans living in either Guatemala or Bali, with each item purchased funding our clean-ups and creating jobs that provide the steady income people in these communities need right now.’

Why 4ocean’s mission is so important

Globally, humans have produced around 18.3 trillion pounds of plastic since the 1950s. Less than 10 percent of it has been properly recycled. As a result, a massive 79 percent of this waste has accumulated in our natural environment.

If we continue on the current rate of projection laid out by the World Economic Forum, our overall plastic use is guaranteed to triple by 2050. The level of plastic waste polluting the planet will increase in tandem.

That said, plastic pollution isn’t just a problem for our planet. We humans are affected by its negative impacts on the global economy and the threat it poses to global food security.

Billions of people around the world are employed by ocean-based industries such as fishing and tourism. On a whole, the blue economy contributes trillions of dollars in goods and services to the global economy every year.

Our global food system is also heavily dependent on the health of marine ecosystems, with more than 3 billion coastal communities relying on seafood as their primary source of protein.

‘Plastic pollution disproportionately impacts poor and marginalised communities around the world,’ says Alex. ‘That’s why it’s important to us that our operations have a direct impact on the people and places most impacted by plastic pollution.’

The mission going forward

While 4ocean’s bracelet sales primarily fund their clean-up operations, the company has recently launched new programs aimed at accelerating progress and maximizing their impact.

In 2021, 4ocean introduced its multifaceted Corporate Partnerships Program which works with companies to offset their plastic usage. It also aids in waterway clean-up efforts around the globe.

So far, brands that have received 4ocean Plastic Neutral Certification and/or become Certified Clean-up Partners include John Frieda, Mount Gay Rum, Nature Gnaws, and the U.S. Polo Association.

Just last month, 4ocean also announced a new partnership with Corona International on World Oceans Day (June 8). The collaboration seeks to reduce plastic pollution in our oceans further, by moving efforts upstream into highly polluted rivers like the Rio Motagua in Guatemala.

One of the most polluted rivers in Central America, the Motagua accounts for roughly 2% of all plastic waste that enters our oceans each year. Focusing clean-up efforts at the source is a smart idea because it prevents thousands of pounds of plastic from entering our oceans in the first place.

Speaking on reaching the 30 million pound mark, Alex Schulze said:

‘When they say a small group of dedicated people can change the world, believe them. 4ocean is incredibly proud to have accomplished this record-setting feat.’

Still, reaching this incredible milestone has only made Schulze and Cooper more motivated to continue their work.

‘Reaching 30 million pounds of plastic and trash removed from the oceans is just the first step,’ says Schulze. ‘We still have a lot of work to do.’