IN UNDER A decade of operation, ocean cleanup company 4Ocean has already pulled over 34 million pounds of trash from the world’s oceans and waterways. In honor of Earth Day, we spoke with Alex Schultz, co-founder and CEO of 4Ocean, to learn more. “Our business model is simple,” Schultz explains. “We remove plastic from the ocean, we recycle it into products, and then we sell those products to fund additional cleanups.”4Ocean’s most renowned products are their bracelets, usually made of recycled plastic cords and glass beads. Buying one4Ocean Signature Bracelet for $23 directly equates to cleaning up five pounds of trash. Signing up for a monthly subscription gets you limited-edition bracelets and pulls 10 pounds per month. The popularity of these bracelets, combined with their other products and their savvy corporate partnerships, has rocketed 4Ocean’s operations since their founding in 2017.

“It’s been an incredible journey, especially the growth of our cleanups,” Schultz says. “We went from doing a million pounds in the first 18 months to now doing about 8 million pounds per year. We’ve expanded cleanup operations, and today we employ over 200 full-time captains and crewmates around the world.”

4Ocean’s cleanup crews are focused in three regions: Florida, Indonesia, and Guatemala. Schultz laid out the location-choosing formula for us: a lacking waste management infrastructure, some form of elevation, and a rainy season. In locations like this, single-use plastics end up in informal landfills, or on the sides of roads and rivers. Then, during the rainy season, they’re washed downstream and end up flowing into the ocean.

Just because 4Ocean’s 12 locations are concentrated in those regions, that doesn’t mean their impact is.

“Locations all around the world are connected by the ocean,” says Schultz. “[Waste is] being transported around the world by ocean currents, winds, and tides, and it really is affecting everyone.”

Trash in the ocean degrades and clogs up natural processes, killing ocean life. Plastics get eaten and moved up the food chain until it ends up on our plates, or in the guts of Salish Sea orcas.

As 4Ocean has grown, they’ve been able to work on special cleanups and collaborative projects, and they hope to continue expanding in years to come.

“Our main focus this year is really expanding our impact,” Schultz says. “So we’re scaling up our clean-up operations and trying to expand the locations, as well as the various different methods of cleaning.”

One program of focus this year is the Osborne Reef Tire Cleanup. Well-meaning Floridians in the 1970s banded over 2 million waste tires together with steel clips and nylon straps, then sank them into the ocean over the artificial Osborne Reef. Overtime, those tires have come loose, causing “irreparable damage” to marine ecosystems. 4Ocean has joined the recovery efforts and been designated a 34-acre cleanup area, where divers go down and physically wrestle tires out of the ocean floor.

If you’d like to contribute to the cause, 4Ocean makes it easy. Start by engaging with them on social media—the first step in the mission is spreading awareness and talking about the ocean’s plastic issue. Shop 4Ocean’sproducts or consider a partnership to reduce your business’s footprint. Perhaps most importantly, reduce your own single-use plastic waste.

“Cleaning the ocean alone will not solve the ocean plastic crisis,” says Shultz. “Our captains and crews will just be sitting on a treadmill nonstop if we don’t have a chance to stop it at the source.”@4ocean on all social media sites,