KAYA RODRIGUES WRITES – While walking along the beaches in Los Angeles county, observing trash on the shorelines and hearing news stories of garbage patches – not-so-lovingly nick-named ‘trash islands’ – such as the 2.41 million ton Great Pacific Garbage Patch between Hawaii and California, it is hard not to be pessimistic about the future of our oceans and the lives of the creatures within them. But companies like 4Ocean, which sell bracelets and other goods made of marine debris, shine a ray of hope into that darkness.
4Ocean, a Public Benefit Corporation and Certified B-Corp dedicated to solving this trash crisis, creates and sells goods made from ocean plastics. In fact, they take the deadliest source of pollution today — abandoned and discarded fishing gear, or “ghost gear,” and turn it into waterproof, beaded bracelets. For every bracelet sold, one pound of trash is repurposed. As of this article’s publication, 27,939,257 pounds of trash have been pulled by 4Ocean’s crews.
Unlike many organizations with similar missions, 4Ocean does not rely on volunteers to accomplish its cleanups; it hires captains and crews and pays a living wage, in addition to providing health insurance coverage, and opportunities to earn additional bonuses for the full-time staff members who clean waterways every day. So, who are these people? Locals trained to operate the appropriate equipment and conduct cleanup missions in Florida, Osborne Reef, Guatemala, as well as nine other locations around the globe. The operation in Indonesia, which is the second largest contributor to marine pollution (behind China), is an intense effort.
4Ocean uses a variety of equipment, depending on the depth of the water and ocean life in specific areas. For example, if the waters are shallow, or if there are animals susceptible to harm by boats, larger vessels may not be used, and crews might opt for trash bins or manual skimming of trash, whereas in deeper waters, mobile skimmers and even specialized vessels may be used to collect debris.
What can be done to improve the accumulation of trash? 4Ocean’s customer service team members emphasize the importance of reflecting on day-to-day habits, such as recycling, relying less on single-use plastics, and forming informal beach cleanups to prevent more trash from polluting the waterways around the globe.
4Ocean is entirely innovative, perhaps most of all by professionalizing its cleanup efforts and establishing a fairly compensated crew dedicated to the task at hand…while also making jewelry. Saving the ocean doesn’t have to be drudgery. It can be done with style.