By Kelly Baughman

Ocean pollution is a global problem that affects more than 817 animal species around the world, a figure that has increased 23 percent in the last five years alone. Human activities along the coastlines and far inland all over the world effect the health of our ocean. According to a study done by the University of Georgia, 18 billion pounds of plastic trash winds up in our oceans each year, but Florida natives Andrew Cooper and Alex Schulze are doing something about it.
After taking a surf trip to Bali in 2015, the two were shocked at the amount of plastic they saw floating in the once pristine Indonesian waters. “We asked a local lifeguard why there was so much trash in the area, and he told us that the government comes to clean it every day, but more and more keeps washing up,” Cooper said.
Indonesia’s rampant pollution problem comes in a close second to China as the biggest polluters in the world, and Cooper and Schulze knew they had to do something to try to save our oceans. That’s when the ocean advocates came up with the idea for 4Ocean, a company that removes plastic from oceans all over the world and repurposes it into bracelets that fund the cleanup efforts. Sold for $20, each recycled bracelet sold funds one pound of trash removal from oceans all over the world.
As avid fisherman, surfers, and self-proclaimed “water addicts” themselves, Cooper and Schulze have seen the ocean waste crisis in local waters as well as the waters of Indonesia.
The duo spent the most of 2016 developing a business plan, prototype for the bracelet, securing a local manufacturer to produce them, and creating buzz on social media. The two scavenged local beaches daily, cleaning up plastic and trash to create their first batch of bracelets, and raised just $5,000 to get their project off the ground.
“I think we said if we sell 20 bracelets a day, that’s all we need to do,” Cooper said. “I told myself, ‘I’ll wake up in the morning, I’ll walk to beach, I’ll pull 20 pounds and we’ll quit our jobs and we’ll do this full time.’ And, we were selling 20 bracelets a day before we knew it.”
After just one year in business, 4Ocean had already removed over 1 million pounds of plastic, glass, and trash from the ocean, and had sold over $30 million dollars in recycled bracelets to continue funding their efforts. But despite their monumental efforts, Cooper said, “We still have a long way to go.”
Since their launch, the company has grown to employ 180 people around the world with a fleet of ships, boats, and crews that work full-time removing trash from waters all over the world. Cooper and Schulze said that as the CEO’s of this multimillion dollar company they take annual salaries of $50,000 per year, and provide all of their employees with competitive salaries and full medical benefits. “Outside of the salaries we pay our employees and the 10% we donate to various charity partners, including non-profit organizations focused on marine life like the Coral Restoration Foundation and Project Aware, all of 4Ocean’s profits go back into the cleanup operations,” said Cooper.
Cooper and Schulze said that their next goal is to hit the 10 million pound mark, and they encourage people to get involved in the efforts, even if you don’t live near the beach. “Even if you live in Middle America, recycling your trash is so important. The less we have all over the world, the less that will end up in the ocean. It starts with small things, and every person on earth is responsible and can make a difference,” Schulze said.
Since their humble beginnings just two years ago, 4Ocean has removed 5,344,171 pounds of trash from the ocean and coastlines. With headquarters in Boca Raton, Deerfield Beach, Denpasar, Bali, and now an expansion in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, 4Ocean has now cleaned the oceans and coastlines in 27 countries so far.
To help in the cleanup efforts, you can go to www.4ocean.com to purchase a recycled bracelet that will fund the removal of 1 pound of trash. There is a new bracelet style added every month, and you can even get a monthly subscription that will get you the latest 4Ocean creation for as long as you subscribe.
The Legacy bracelets showcase different forms of marine life, and in addition to funding trash removal, they help raise awareness about the threats that jeopardize their survival. You can choose from dolphins, seabirds, manatees, marine nurseries, sea turtles, polar bears, coral reefs and many more. Each are unique in color and all come with the signature stainless steel 4Ocean logo charm.
All bracelets are adjustable to fit any wrist, come with a one year warranty, and are completely recyclable themselves.
For more information about 4Ocean, or to become a local supportive retailer to fund cleanup efforts in our area, visit www.4ocean.com.