Two surfers are navigating uncharted waters to keep our oceans clean.

When Andrew Cooper and Alex Schulze planned a surfing trip to the legendary waves off the coast of Bali, Indonesia, they never imagined the impact this vacation would have.

While Bali’s waves may have been just what these surfers had always dreamed of, Bali’s waters themselves were more of a nightmare. The beaches were covered in garbage, and fisherman parted seas of trash each day, catching much more plastic than fish. Without a waste management infrastructure, plastic caught in fishing nets was simply dumped back into the ocean. Plastic only continued to accumulate, leaving the water contaminated and the fisherman unable to earn a decent living.

Seeing this gave Cooper and Schultze an idea. What if plastic was, in fact, what the fisherman set out to catch each day? While there may have been a shortage of fish, there was no shortage of garbage. There just needed to be a market for it.  

Flash forward a couple of years and this idea is now 4ocean, a global ocean cleanup company funded entirely through the sale of 4ocean sustainability products and the 4ocean bracelet, made from post-consumer recycled glass and plastic. The sale of each bracelet promises the removal of at least one pound of trash from the ocean. Currently 4.5 million pounds of trash have been successfully removed, clearing the coastlines of 27 different countries.

After Bali, the 4ocean team set up operations in Haiti where they aim to pull 3,000 pounds of plastic a day. Their first priorities are locations that do not have infrastructure for recycling or waste management and which consequently use a high volume of single-use plastic.

With their ever-growing team, Cooper and Schultze have created a sustainable economy for ocean conservation, employing over 300 people across the globe, and working in conjunction with 15 different nonprofit organizations supporting marine conservation. Dedicated to sustainable innovation, 4ocean’s ultimate goal is to promote awareness regarding the problems of single-use plastic and the necessity of educating consumers so as to prevent future plastic pollution and keep our oceans clean.