Using the Ocean to Fight Climate Change Raises Serious Environmental Justice and Technical Questions
May 9, 2017
Can a bracelet craze clean our oceans?
contributor: Ben Taylor
[Updated September 2018] 4Ocean has put an artistic spin on a straightforward solution to plastic pollution in the oceans. Their solution is simple: Beach and coastal water cleanups. Their innovation is in how they fund their work, selling bracelets and reusable bottles made of recycled plastic and glass.
4Ocean aims to remove a half kilogram (1 pound) of plastic and other debris from the ocean for every bracelet and bottle they sell. The concept follows a simple principle: you buy the product, proceeds from your purchase help clean the ocean. To date the company has pulled 1 million pounds of trash from the ocean. To do its work 4Ocean employs 160 people, including fishermen, captains and crew, in the United States, Haiti and Bali.
Is there really that much plastic in the ocean?
Anxiety has been rising over the clouds of plastic in the oceans even as we collectively dump the equivalent of one garbage truck full of plastic waste into the ocean every minute, according to a study by the World Economic Forum. There are 250,000 tons of plastic in the water now, and at the rate we’re adding it, there could be more plastic than fish by the year 2050 (by weight).
New organizations have emerged to address the problem. We reported on OceanCleanup, which captured imaginations with its innovative take on waste cleanup using deep-water floating barriers. Some experts have eyed the project skeptically, however, saying that time is better spent in preventing plastic from entering from our oceans in the first place. And one expert review suggests that cleaning up water near coasts and cities that are the source of the pollution would be more efficient than deep-sea platforms in the gyres.
4Ocean’s simple cleanup solution, on the other hand, is the same employed by non-profits and thousands of beach-combing volunteers around the world. Collecting trash from the beach is a direct way to reduce the trash in the ocean, according to the non-profit Oceanic Society.
The ingestion of plastic and entanglement in marine debris harms thousands of whales every year. When you purchase the blue and purple Limited Edition Whale Bracelet at 4Ocean.com, every pound of trash pulled from the ocean and coastlines will help contribute to the preservation of whales worldwide. #4Ocean #4Whales #JoinTheMovement #PullAPound #LimitedEdition
What Are the Bracelets Made From?
The bands reflect a minimalist aesthetic as a string of clear beads made from recycled glass bottles bound with cord made from plastic bottles. You might be wondering if the bracelets are made directly from the trash that 4Ocean removes from the oceans, and they are not. They are made of recycled materials from a facility.
At $20 (£15), the price of the bracelet may be slightly more than at which other ‘charities’ market theirs, but 4Ocean is striving to fulfil its promise of cleanup.
Weekly Update Tracker
A tracker on 4Ocean’s website counts off the pounds of plastic that they have cleaned. At the time of writing, it’s at nearly 48,000 lbs (21,770kg). And it rises regularly.
“To ensure that we hold our promise true to our customers, we make a monthly effort to stay ahead of it. For example, our website displays that our trash tracker has removed 47,000 pounds – we have not yet sold 47,000 bracelets,” Andrew Cooper, one of 4Ocean’s founders, told E4C.
This is a fantastic way to keep people who have bought their bands updated on 4Ocean’s progress.
Mark Murphy of Oyster diving said that their idea was “a step in the right direction for the sustainability and health of our oceans,” and believes that “if more people got involved in similar projects, our ocean and sea-life’s health would improve dramatically.”
Who is 4Ocean?
The organization is based out of an office and warehouse in Boca Raton, Florida (USA). A team of more than 30 employees, including a boat captain, collect trash five days per week. They sort out the recyclable materials and drop the rest at a solid waste processing facility.
How do we know they’re really cleaning up?
Doing good things for the environment and for people is good for business, so It’s hard to know which organizations are really taking action, and which ones make empty promises as a marketing scheme. 4Ocean establishes a paper trail of receipts and photos for its trash drop-offs to try to demonstrate the work the team has done. And they’re in the process of registering with the Better Business Bureau, Mr. Cooper says.
Want to volunteer? Go for it!
4Ocean hosts onshore and offshore cleanups, inviting volunteers who want to help make our oceans healthier. You can sign up to help via their newsletter here, (scroll to the bottom of the page) and they’ll let you know when their next cleanup is going to be.
The organization operates in Florida and the Caribbean, but there are other programs around the world. Surfers Against Sewage takes volunteers in the UK, for example. And you can find beach cleanup events at Surfrider Foundation and at The Ocean Conservancy’s website.
Join the cause and help out at your local beach anytime you can!
For more, please see 4Ocean.com.