The Next Ocean Plastic Frontier - 4ocean's Incredible Project Guatemala

The Next Ocean Plastic Frontier – 4ocean’s Incredible Project Guatemala


Writing about 4ocean is always a pleasure and today we are proud to be able to tell you the story of their next great adventure – Project Guatemala. The very innovative and busy 4ocean crew expands its operations into Central America and has started an immense river- and ocean plastic cleanup. Find out more about them, plastic pollution and the Rio Motagua, one of the region’s most plastic polluting rivers.

plastic in the ocean
Bag by bag towards a clean ocean

All Good Newz has been following 4ocean’s work for a long time and back in December, I wrote the site’s first extensive article on them. Their concept and engagement is truly awe-inspiring and fascinating. Ocean plastic has become one of our time’s biggest environmental issues and the company’s never-ending efforts are worth a tremendous amount of respect.

Project Guatemala and the plastic pollution issue

When it comes to visualization and media productions, 4ocean are experts in that field as well. Check out their promo video on Project Guatemala below!

4ocean’s Project Guatemala

One gets stoked just looking at it, even though it centrals around the issue of plastic pollution. And that is exactly the feeling people should get! Because what 4ocean, along with other companies that clean the ocean, has managed to do is to turn this negative and destructive polluting force into something that is manageable. Never mind the magnitude of the problem; they, and soon all of us, are getting to it. They are reducing it, one plastic bag, straw and cup at a time!

plastic pollution
A heavily plastic polluted beach in Guatemala

So now, 4ocean goes into Central American plastic territory. In the near future, they will expand further, perhaps collecting ocean plastic off the coasts of China or India, spreading awareness and inspiring more and more people to both take action and proactively reduce plastic pollution.

Related article: 4ocean – Plastic Cleaners of the Seven Seas

I was lucky enough to connect to 4ocean’s global head of brand marketing, Tim Binder. That’s something else that’s really awesome with 4ocean by the way; they are extremely down to earth, kind, and always helpful, no matter if you talk to their customer service, their scientists or their managers! In fact, the company’s customer service has won an award this year for their high quality service level! Tim then asked Alex Schulze, one of the 4ocean founders, if he could answer the interview questions for the article, which Alex went ahead and did. You really can’t get much closer to the source than that!

Where did you get the initial idea or inspiration to start Project Guatemala? 

“The inspiration for Project Guatemala didn’t come from one specific place. As we all know, the ocean plastic pollution crisis is world-wide and requires change everywhere. In this specific example, Central America made sense because it is a heavy impact zone due to its geographical makeup. Guatemala sits between both the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans and has major waterways like the Rio Motagua that are responsible for carrying land-based trash into our oceans. This region not only gives us a chance to make a huge impact on the ocean plastic crisis but also enables us to test new technologies like our boom systems and mobile skimmer.”

plastic pollution in the Rio Motagua
Plastic pollution in and around Guatemala’s Rio Motagua

The Rio Motagua, measuring over 250miles, is one of Central America’s longest rivers. Along its banks, millions of tons of plastic are entering the river system and making their way downstream each and every year. Once the waste has passed the river mouth, it’s going straight into the sea.

And that is how ocean plastic becomes a reality. We are feeding the world with our plastic waste, the rivers are the bloodlines transporting it, and the oceans are the heart receiving the poisoned blood. Hence, the seas are sick and 4ocean is the much needed doctor healing it up again!

Collecting ocean plastic with new technologies
skimmer collecting plastic in the ocean
The Mobile Skimmer collecting plastic in the ocean

In order to speed up the process of ocean plastic collection, the innovative 4ocean guys constantly come up with new technological solutions and improvements. The Mobile Skimmer is a floating waste collector with two adjustable arms that are able to funnel bigger amounts of plastic onto a conveyor belt. The plastic then goes from the belt directly into giant trash bags, called supersacks.

ocean plastic recovery vessel
The Ocean Plastic Recovery Vessel

They have also built their very own ocean plastic recovery vessel, helping the crew to collect much more waste at a time. This 135 feet long ship is able to transport up to 340.000 pounds. It becomes very obvious that 4ocean is seriously scaling up their business operations.

plastic pollution in rivers
4ocean crew member installing a boom system in a river

Booms are another innovative technology that 4ocean is using. They have installed boom systems in rivers in Bali and Haiti before. Now, they are going into the Rio Motagua and bigger, more resilient versions of them will also be placed out in the ocean. These super smart systems efficiently capture floating plastic in the ocean and in rivers, preventing it from floating into the wider ocean or down the rivers into the sea.

Is this new focus on rivers the natural next step in 4ocean’s evolution, to go from the ocean to the source, the rivers?

“I wouldn’t say it’s a next step per se. I’d say it’s an additional focus area for 4ocean so we can have an even larger impact on the ocean plastic crisis. We are currently operating in Florida, Bali, Haiti and Guatemala. Testing different methods to stop plastic upstream in Guatemala enables us to prepare for even larger waterways like the Yangtze or Ganges in the future.”  

As you can see, 4ocean plans to be in the game for a very long time. Future operations in heavily polluted rivers such as the mentioned Yangtze or Ganges, would be a mega upgrade for the company and the possible impact they could have on such systems of plastic pollution is enormous.

How long is Project Guatemala planned to run for?

“As long as it takes. We are only getting started in Central America and would like to expand our operations.”

Is it very obvious and reassuring that the 4ocean founders and their crew take one step at a time. Not only do they make sure that the areas they are currently focusing on really become clean and free from plastic, they also use every new project to do extensive in field research, which of course constantly helps them to improve and refine their work. It is a wonderful example of a long-term, thought through and sustainable business model.

ocean plastic clean up at the beach
Building up local community awareness and involvement is an essential part of 4ocean’s work

Another great aspect of 4ocean is their focus on local communities. They focus a lot on spreading and building up awareness regarding the plastic pollution problem and actively work towards changing everyday behavioral patterns and attitudes towards plastic and the environment. The plastic in the oceans is only the last piece of the puzzle. If we want to reduce (marine) plastic pollution permanently, we will have to work on drying up the source and closing the tap!

4ocean helps local and regional communities to do just that. They are employing local fishermen and ship captains for the offshore operations. On land, they educate the communities and involve members of it in clean up events. They are also the plastic ambassadors reaching out and helping to spread the word, and action, further! A very positive result of that is the creation of new jobs.

How many local jobs will you create with the help of this project, approximately?

“We will start by looking to add a few dozen crew members. The goal is to have this expand as the operation expands.”

Tacking on the elusive plastic islands
plastic islands
A floating plastic island

Plastic islands are large patches of floating waste, often made up of plastic bags, plates, cutlery and bottles, that are drifting across large areas of the ocean. in Central America, one of their main sources seems to be the rivers of Guatemala, Belize and Honduras. These islands can be 100s, or even 1000s of feet in diameter and are probably the most visible and powerful example of the magnitude of the ocean plastic pollution.

Until now, clean up efforts have been largely uncoordinated and inefficient in the region. But 4ocean is there to change that!

Is your ultimate goal to erase the so-called plastic islands. A total clean up, in other words?

“That would be incredible. Our mission, as an organization overall, is to end the ocean plastic pollution crisis.  If we can erase major impact zones in the areas we set up operations, then we are succeeding. The plastic islands are elusive and always changing. The weather, currents and tides cause these islands of trash to move every single day. We are doing what we can to understand these variables first and will go from there. We’ll keep you updated along the way!” 

ocean plastic bracelet
The 4ocean Bracelet

Make sure to head over to 4ocean’s shop and purchase one of their beautiful bracelets. It’s 20 bucks that help clean up our oceans, as every sold bracelets equals one pound of collected ocean plastic.

Up to this day, 4ocean managed to extract an astonishing 8,115,320 pounds of ocean plastic and we can expect that number to grow substantially in the near future. All Good Newz wants to thank the 4ocean founders Alex Schulze and Andrew Cooper and their entire crew for all the hard work they are doing for our oceans. You are a true source of inspiration and all of us should follow the example you are setting. Together, we can turn the tide, one pound at a time!

All images provided by and property of 4ocean

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