Our Plastic Earth
Elena Zaharieva is a 10th-grader at the National Trade and Banking High school in Sofia. She has researched a very intersting organization from the United States – 4OCEAN, and interviewed one of their employees. Find out what 4OCEAN does in order to keep our planet clean.
Single-use plastic has become one of the world’s most talked about topics. How can one ignore that when there are 29% land and 71% plastic? Our day-to-day life is surrounded by plastic – one that is used and not reused but thrown away. Where this plastic goes and the effect it has on our environment is shocking.
On the coast of Costa Rica – a sea turtle is silently suffering from a cocktail straw, stabbed in the nose. The North sea – flocks of albatrosses are found dead with plastic in their stomachs. California – more plastic than plankton is found in contaminated water samples. The marine life is slowly getting destroyed due to the polluted water that we fill up with toxins. Every year coral reefs, penguins, dolphins and even whales are found washed ashore – dead. Countless amounts of plastic are found where they do not belong.
Worldwide organisations have joined forces to fight against ocean pollution. 4OCEAN is a privately held company that started out from Boca Raton, Florida, United States. Founders – Andrew Cooper and Alex Schulze started in 2017 and now employ 200 employees with the sole purpose of removing plastic waste from the ocean. The recycled material is then turned into bracelets that fund the organisation. 4OCEAN pledges to remove one pound of trash for every bracelet sold. I had the privilege of interviewing Lauren – a customer advocate at 4OCEAN and this is what she had to say about the current state of ocean pollution.
- Once 4OCEAN was created, was the success achieved seen as a possible future or just as a dream?
“It began with hope and the success has blown us all away by the amount of support and how rapidly we have grown in recognition, support, awareness of the problem, and reach.”
- Are there many people, who are aware of the problem, willing to volunteer?
“Absolutely, we have a constant stream of inquiries about volunteering from around the world.”
- How did you come up with the idea to start selling bracelets made from recycled materials?
“It was an idea conceived out of a need for a solution to a massive problem. With research and ingenuity, the concept became a reality. The growth we have experienced is due to our bracelets and our 1 pound promise.”
- After the large amount of trash that you were already able to remove, how much more is there left until the ocean water is again as clean as it once was and is that even possible?
“There is such a massive amount of pollution in the ocean and still streaming into the ocean from various sources, the problem is much bigger than what we have achieved so far. We are approaching 5 million pounds pulled and there is just so much more out there. Of all ocean plastic, 8.5 million metric tons settle on the bottom of the ocean each year. Currently, those involved in cleaning up the ocean are focusing on the pollution resting on the surface and just below the surface and catching it at the source to prevent it from reaching the ocean. There is plenty of room for solutions to collecting all of the pollutions at the bottom of the ocean.”
- How do you see the future of the ocean and are people starting to change their behaviour towards the environment?
“The future is hopeful, but realistically, extremely challenging. It will take many with many attemptable solutions to collect the pollution not being directly addressed via our world’s current technologies. People are changing their behaviours and are more and more turning to alternatives to reduce waste, consciously make responsible choices with waste disposal/recycling, and word of mouth is spreading like wildfire. This is definitely a trending concern, which we hope will inspire more people to work on useable solutions and push this issue into the main arena of global awareness.”
- And one last question. Are you planning on expanding to other parts of the world?
“Yes, we are constantly working on expanding. We are currently working in Bali, Haiti, and South Florida, and we are hard at work trying to add the Philippines to that list. Our goal is to keep expanding as effectively as we can. We are cautious not to rush this growth. It has been happening very organically and we feel that is best. We want to help as many places as possible though. So expansion is definitely always on our minds.”
Lauren’s answers make it pretty clear that even though this monster, also known as plastic, is torturing the planet Earth – our home, people are ready to fight it. Sadly, with the current style of living shared by the vast majority of the world population, it becomes an impossibility to all of these organisations to cover the entire globe. What is left for us is to break the vicious circle of acting bad towards our planet and continue the mission that many courageous humans have already set out on.
Ellen MacArthur, the founder of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, specialised in recycling, predicts that by 2050 the oceans will have more plastic than fish. To many people, it may seem that there is no going back, but believe me, it can all be reversed. It is all about the mindset and the willingness of the world population to change their behaviour towards nature. Little changes made step by step are the key to a brighter and cleaner future. The faith of the oceans and the entire planet is in our hands!