4ocean celebrates new drone and collects 30 million pounds of garbage

The latest head-turner from the 4ocean folks is a Roomba-like robot that removes plastic and other floating debris from waterways.

Built by a French company called The Searial Cleaners, the PixieDrone is designed for marinas, resorts, docks and public places to collect rubbish… and raise awareness.

Those pixies hold about 35 gallons or 132 pounds of plastic, so they’re not the driving force behind a recent milestone for 4ocean, which as of June 27 has collected 30 million pounds of trash from oceans, rivers and shores.

The heavy lifting is still being done by more than 200 paid captains and crew in a dozen locations around the world, using hands, nets, boats and funds from the sale of bracelets and other 4ocean products. Clean-up areas include Florida, Indonesia and Guatemala.

Based in Florida, 4ocean is a not-for-profit corporation. So you make money, but only if 1 pound of plastic is collected for every product sold, says Alex Schulze, CEO and co-founder of Andrew Cooper.

Education about drones

Measuring approximately 5 feet long and 4 feet wide, the pixie is a real conversation piece.

People line up to ask for the device, maneuver it around, and talk about ocean plastic whenever it’s out on the water, Schulze says. The device has a video camera and can be operated remotely or autonomously, equipped with lidar technology to avoid obstacles.

The drones are built for 4ocean to sell to marinas and other users. They were introduced a few months ago and there are about a dozen in the wild.

“Our goal is to be able to use these machines to bring them to different areas of the state and neighboring countries,” he says.

Reaching the £30m mark represents an increase of £10m since early 2022. The company was founded in 2017.

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“We have become more efficient,” adds Schulze. We have expanded our activities.”

This includes onboarding partners to help drive more cleanup efforts and pay 4ocean employees a living wage and benefits with support from companies like Sea-Doo, Garmin Technology and the US Polo Assn.

The partnerships offer companies the opportunity to sponsor clean-ups and purchase plastic offsets to offset their impact, similar to carbon offsets. People can also register.

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The sea cleaning business

As reported by The New York Times, the average American throws away 110 pounds of single-use plastic every year.

That plastic could end up in a landfill. But in many places around the world, discarded plastics instead find their way into oceans, rivers and coasts through garbage, illegal landfills and improper waste management, according to the United Nations Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission. According to Insider Monkey, a financial website, there are at least a dozen large corporations and startups involved in ocean cleanup.

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“The credit system itself is not a panacea,” says Schulze about 4ocean’s plastic compensation. “This is a stepping stone to a more sustainable future. We are trying to work with brands to find more sustainable solutions and eliminate single-use plastic altogether.”

Not all of the plastic collected by 4ocean can be recycled, but “recycling is our top priority,” says Schulze.

4ocean says it is making every effort to document the removed plastic using a verified tracking system.

About 80% of the plastic collected can be recycled, and the rest ends up in landfills, but still doesn’t end up back in the water, says Schulze.

“We stockpile a significant amount of material in the gray area, millions of pounds. We are waiting to work with brands to use this plastic.”

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