- email us
- Jupiter, Florida, United States
Living 4Ocean Not for Plastic
In 2014 on the island of Bali, two young Floridian surfers had an epiphany that is now helping change the polluted oceans of the world for the better. By making a positive change to the environment and providing sustainable incomes for those they employ, these two ambitious men are creating big waves that are causing consumers and businesses to sit up and take notice.
Andrew Cooper and Alex Schulze were both studying at Florida Atlantic University, but hadn’t met until they were introduced to each other during a boating trip with friends. They discovered a shared love of surfing, which they each began to take more seriously when they started college.
Spending countless hours on the ocean, both Cooper and Schulze were aware of the environment and humanity’s negative impact on it. However, they did not realize how bad the situation actually was. After their graduation, they decided to take a trip to Bali to surf and celebrate. It was here that they were confronted with a jaw dropping site; one that hit them so hard it would change their lives forever; plastic was in the water everywhere. This was not the odd bottle floating in the sea, but a rather colossal amount as far as the eye could see.
4Ocean founders, Alex Schulze and Andrew Cooper, may often be found sorting through a pile of plastic trash which has been removed from the ocean.
They knew they had to do something and acted with their hearts, aptitude, and determination to help combat a problem of catastrophic implications. Watching the local fisherman of Bali haul their boats through a sea of plastic was too much to stand. Cooper and Schulze realized this was devastating to the environment, life cycles of sea creatures, and the livelihood of the fisherman. They came to the conclusion that by hiring the local fishermen to pull in the plastic from the ocean and waterways, they could provide the fishermen with an income and subsequently help clean up the ocean.
Based in Boca Raton and founded in January 2017, 4Ocean funds its missions through the sale of bracelets made from recycled materials. Every bracelet purchased removes one pound of trash from the oceans and coastlines. In only a short amount of time, 4Ocean has removed a whopping 2.2 million pounds of trash from the waterways.
Schulze is excited when he explains 4Ocean’s latest and largest recruit to the ocean cleanup crew. “We have just launched a 135-foot offshore supply vessel which was previously used for the oil and gas industries in Louisiana. We have fitted it with the necessary equipment and machinery to turn it into an ocean cleanup recovery vessel, enabling it to intercept and remove plastic from the ocean.”
The 4Ocean Ocean Plastic Recovery Vessel (OPR Vessel) can bring in 310,000 pounds of plastic in one trip alone. The OPR Vessel is also equipped with smaller panga vessels which can haul 1,500 pounds from hard to reach, narrow areas. The panga vessels are currently utilized in the Caribbean and Central America, with locals hired to maintain the vessels and equipment.
Andrew Cooper and Alex Schulze have recently been recognized and named Forbes 30 Under 30 for Social Entrepreneurship. Andrew is modest when he emphasizes, “It really is amazing. We have been doing this for 22 months and it’s incredible to see what can happen when you have an idea and give it everything you got and here we are today. The category for Social Entrepreneurship is important to us as it highlights that we are not heavily on the profit side; we are on the cleanup environment side.” Schulze follows up, “What we are really proud of is the category Forbes describes as ‘individuals leveraging business smarts to save the world.’ We are really excited about it.”
The future of 4Ocean is promising for us all, with both Cooper and Schulze determined to be the largest ocean cleanup company in the world. “We want to grow our cleanup company to be a global movement,” Schulze clarifies. “Not only cleaning up the ocean, but bringing awareness to ocean plastic by leveraging our brand. This is not going to happen immediately, people are not just going to quit using plastic, but if we can be an influence on consumers and change their daily habits for a better future then we have achieved our ultimate goal.”
“These large companies are selling plastic items because people are paying for it,” Cooper states. “We are speaking up and they are starting to listen. Companies are starting to make things from paper and recycled plastic. We are a private company rather than a non-profit because we want to maintain a sustainable business model that’s going to last through many economic recessions, as well as doing a great job cleaning the oceans all around the world.”
Schulze explains the future of 4Ocean, “We are currently developing 4Ocean in the sustainability sense. Much like when you think of reusable water bottles, these are the kinds of products we are researching and doing prototyping on. They will reduce the amount of plastic we buy such as cutlery or shopping bags. As we introduce more products, our goal is to eliminate single use plastic from a consumer stand point.”
Many step back when it comes to tackling global issues, often rationalizing or ignoring problems, in the hope they will disappear. It has taken two young surfers to shake people’s comfort zone and shine a light on what’s really happening in our plastic-swamped oceans. Not only are these eco-warriors changing the attitudes of consumers, but they encapsulate the strength of human spirit and how the willpower of a few is not just a drop in the ocean. •