Cleaning up the ocean is still a priority for 4ocean

4ocean has pulled over 26 million pounds of trash out of the oceans since 2017. Photo courtesy of

Katie Dikes

As Beth Reiss strolls alongside the beach in Naples, Florida, she regularly notices overflowing trash-cans and plastic littered all around. 

Reiss isn’t the only one who’s noticed. Numerous beaches and coastlines around the world- such as Guatemala, Haiti, Indonesia and Hawaii are starting to see their ecosystems negatively impacted due to such waste and pollution. 

“We need people to not throw stuff in the water; but not just in the water, also on the beach or even near bodies of water. [The ocean] is beautiful and we enjoy it, and it is sad that we can’t take care of it. It doesn’t seem that hard,” Reiss said.

While littering and plastic pollution have always been a pressing issue, there are ocean conservation organizations such as Private AWARE and Marine Conservation Institute that work to improve aquatic ecosystems by cleaning up the beaches and ocean. 

A new study reported on by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences reports that “[o]cean pollution is a global problem. [A] complex mixture of toxic metals, plastics, manufactured chemicals, petroleum, urban and industrial wastes, pesticides, fertilizers, pharmaceutical chemicals, agricultural runoff, and sewage…, [p]lastic is a rapidly increasing and highly visible component of ocean pollution, and an estimated 10 million metric tons of plastic waste enter the seas each year.” 

4ocean was started in 2015 by two surfers, Alex Schulze and Andrew Cooper. The organization is trying to put a stop to ocean pollution. The two were inspired to start their business after taking a surf trip to Bali, Indonesia where they spoke to local fishermen. Schulze and Cooper began to understand the severity of the crisis and its impact on marine life and on the communities. After speaking with the fishermen, Schulze and Cooper realized they could improve the situation by building a business to recover plastic and trash from their local environment.

On the flight home from Bali, the two were brainstorming product ideas that would help fund their cleanups. They settled on a bracelet because it was a wearable symbol that not only represented their ideals, but would spark conversations about ocean pollution and act as a physical reminder to make ocean-minded choices. 

To this day, 4ocean manages one of the largest ongoing ocean cleanup operations and employs hundreds of professionals-from captains to crew-who are cleaning the world’s oceans, rivers, and coastlines around the clock. 4ocean has pulled more than 26,500,000 pounds of trash out of the world’s oceans, rivers, and coastlines since 2017. 

Scattered across the world in 12 different locations with a crew of 185 people and 17 vessels, 4ocean continually strives to clean up the ocean as well as coastlines and beaches that play just as important a role in a safe ocean environment. 4ocean also works to help communities become cleaner and safer for marine life and for people to enjoy their natural surroundings. 

“I think [what 4ocean is doing] is helpful. If nothing else, I think they educate people about [ocean pollution]; it may not have a huge impact on [cleaning up the ocean of trash], but [at the same time] what they are doing has an impact because people learn more about it,” Reiss said. 

The Environmental Protection Agency is also taking measures to clean up the ocean of trash. According to their website, “[m]ost of the trash that pollutes our rivers, lakes, estuaries, and oceans comes from sources on land.  Plastic trash, in particular, threatens human health, aquatic ecosystems, and the economy.” They have provided funds for technological and financial support for a number of projects across the country. 

While this is a step toward a cleaner ocean, it is still not enough. Individuals can do their part to help the environment by making ocean-minded choices such as utilizing reusable bags, minimizing use of plastic straws and donating to 4ocean by buying a bracelet (which are made of recycled waste found in the ocean). The ocean needs all hands on deck, and by doing something as simple as throwing trash away, it too will help in the long-term.