This US-based startup, 4Ocean, pledges to make and keep our oceans clean by removing and recycling plastic debris.

It is easy to forget what is going on out there in the ocean. In contrast to the land we live on and go about our daily business more often, oceans are often ignored. As such, we have trouble coming to terms with the fact that we pollute the oceans. Oceans cover about 71 per cent of the Earth and it is tough to say exactly how much plastic is in the ocean, but scientists think the number is around 5.25 trillion pieces of plastic debris. Out of this, while some of it floats on the water’s surface, the rest pollutes the deep sea. As the plastic is tossed around, much of it breaks into tiny pieces called microplastics.

4ocean - Fishes and mammals get trapped in plastic fibres

Death in the Ocean

Marine life is killed in two major ways. First, fishes or mammals get trapped in plastic fibres. It restricts their movement or even the ability to feed or breathe. Second, small pieces are ingested by marine life. This not only threatens the marine biodiversity but also us humans. Marine animals are poisoned internally and killed in the process. Moreover, some of those chemical-laden microplastics may transport into the food chain and into the fish we eat. Additionally, around 25 per cent of all carbon dioxide emissions are absorbed by the oceans, making it one of the world’s largest carbon sinks. Hence, it is critical to maintain a healthy marine ecosystem in the face of rapidly increasing climate change. 

This waste is a big concern as unlike some other kinds of waste, plastics does not decompose. It is said that every plastic that ever existed still exists today! 

4Ocean to the Rescue

A business for good, 4Ocean is committed to cleaning up plastic from the ocean. The founders, Alex Schulze and Andrew Cooper took a trip to Bali, Indonesia, in 2015, and it was an eye-opening experience. There, they truly began to understand the severity of the ocean plastic crisis and its impact not just on marine life but also on the coastal communities that relied on the ocean’s health to survive. This experience hit close to home for them, as they had grown up in Florida and made their living from the ocean. 


Ready, Set, Go!

The founders decided to build a company, hiring boat captains and fishermen in communities severely impacted by plastic pollution as full-time, professional clean-up crew members. It is one of the few companies in the world that does so to recover trash directly seven days a week. This Public Benefit Corporation and Certified B Corp tackles both the debris already in the ocean and stop plastic pollution at its source. The captains and their crews that 4Ocean hires recover harmful marine debris from the ocean. The company also educates people about the global plastic crisis and empower them to end their dependence on single-use plastic.


Today, 4Ocean has clean-up divisions in Florida, Bali, Haiti, and Guatemala. Every year, it recovers millions of pounds of trash from the ocean, rivers, and coastlines. The company is also able to track every pound of trash they pull from the moment it is recovered through their entire supply chain. Their entire process is outlined so that the audience can see the exact steps they take to document the trash recovered by their crew during daily clean-up missions. All documentation is audited and verified quarterly by the Better Business Bureau. They have set a new industry standard of accuracy and accountability for products, by their meticulous documentation process, for products that claim to be made from recycled ocean plastic. 

Recycling the Plastic Recovered

4Ocean products reduce demand for new plastic and raise awareness about plastic pollution. Their actions prevent plastic from polluting the planet.

4Ocean - Collection of waste from Oceans
Collection of waste from Oceans

To this end, 4Ocean is working on the goal to develop a closed-loop manufacturing process that uses the materials recovered from the ocean to develop new and innovative products. The first it ever made was its Signature iPhone Cases. The hard outer shell is made from certified 100 per cent recycled HDPE 4ocean PlasticTM. This type of plastic is widely accepted in recycling programmes. The inner shell case is made from bio-compostable PBAT rubber. It provides incredible drop protection and when one upgrades their phone, it can be composted. So, no trash makes it back into the ocean.

Over time, 4Ocean has expanded its product range, which includes bracelets, face masks, frames, drinkware, apparel, beach gear, and bags—all based on recycled plastic. Each purchase helps it fund its global clean-up operation. 

4Ocean also has a ‘Bracelet of the Month’, which embraces the cause of the month along with a partner of the month. For April 2021, they introduced Earth Day Bracelet to highlight plastic’s role in climate change. Every bracelet that is sold will help them pull a pound of trash and donate $1 to SeaTrees, a non-profit, to help restore blue-carbon ecosystems in Indonesia.  

4Ocean Process Flow
4Ocean Process Flow
Image Source

Awards and Coverage

The founders of 4Ocean have received several awards for their work, including Forbes 2019 30 under 30 (Social Entrepreneurs), Newsweek Creative Class of 2019, Surfer Agent of Change 2018, and many more. They have been invited to speak on the issue of plastic pollution by several major media outlets including The Washington Post, Good Morning America, among many others. 

Activity & Events

While all 4Ocean community events for beach clean-ups are currently on hold due to the restrictions put in place to prevent the spread of coronavirus, their operations are still going strong. They have already pulled 13 million pounds of waste by 13 February 2021, and they aim to pull 20 million pounds of trash from the ocean by the end of 2021.

It is time for our oceans to breathe again, and 4Ocean is making this come true, one pound of recycled plastic at a time!

To know more about 4Ocean and its products, impact, and work, check out:

Article by Shruti B, Team ulaunch.

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