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Popular Boca Raton organization sells recycled bracelets to fund innovative clean up mission

Posted at 10:19 PM, Jul 17, 2017
and last updated 2017-07-18 01:12:47-04

A local organization is making a difference in our oceans. One piece of plastic at a time.

It's the only group you'll find in South Florida that goes out every single day, removing trash from the Intracoastal waterways and surrounding ocean.

"So many people have shown us unbelievable amounts of support and wanted to get behind our mission," said Alex Schulze, co-founder of 4Ocean based in Boca Raton.

That trash is then sorted and sent off for recycling. To fund the clean ups, 4Ocean has bracelets made from the recycled plastic, which have become incredibly popular online. Its Facebook page as over 100,000 likes and counting, with Instagram and Facebook videos being viewed millions of times.

What's even more surprising is the fact that Schulze barely started 4Ocean six months ago. It's an innovative idea that Schulze believes can make a difference.

"It's a problem that's growing and everyone is starting to see it," he said. "The bracelet is simply a token to show how committed you are to cleaner oceans."

We joined the crew on Monday for their daily run through Boca Raton's Intracoastal waterway.

"We're just looking for any type of debris, just any type of plastic," said Schulze, standing on the bow of the boat with a net in hand.

Every effort is made to get even the tiniest pieces of trash and plastic.

"No piece left behind," said Schulze, holding a piece of plastic bag. "It's little pieces like this that look like a jellyfish to various different sea turtles and other animals that's the most harmful because they'll eat that."

Boat captain Tim Hyde has been navigating the seas for decades.

"I've traveled all over. I've gone 300 miles off the coast of Costa Rica, where you think you're the first humans there and there's bottles, cans, plastic," he said. "It's discouraging."

During the trash collection outings, Hyde steers the boat into every alcove he can find, which is where most of the trash is found. Crews pull up trash under docks, seawalls and other corners of the vast Intracoastal waterway that spans the county. On Monday, they pulled hundreds of pounds of trash in a matter of hours, all within the city limits of Boca Raton.

"Especially after a good rain, we get a lot of debris washing out of the storm drains," said Hyde. "Trash from parking lots. A lot of most likely is from people throwing trash out of their cars and it gets washed down into the water."

We counted at least 10 plastic bottles in one corner alone. Hyde maneuvered the boat so that crews could round the bottles up with the net. Fine particle nets are used for bottle caps and other intricate items.

"We find plastic bottles, cigarette butts, cigar tips. We've even gotten hypodermic needles," said Hyde. "We've found entire plastic carts....As time progresses, the sun starts to take the bottles and caps, bigger pieces of plastic, breaks it into smaller pieces which animals can mistake for food."

All of the trash is then brought back to their warehouse to be rinsed and sorted.

"Since we started, I believe we are just over 89,000 pounds," said Schulze.

Plastics are sent to facilities to be recycled. 4Ocean then has the recycled plastic turned into bracelets, which the organization sells to fund more clean ups and raise awareness.

"It is made of 100 percent recycled materials. And for every bracelet purchased, we remove one pound of trash from the ocean," said Schulze.

The end game is to be the world's largest ocean clean up.

"Society -- they don't think about what they're doing. And they don't think about their actions. So we knew this was a problem and we knew this was something that had to be done," said Schulze.

4Ocean has formed a wide network of ambassadors across the world, from Canada to California and Costa Rica. You can host a beach or waterway clean up on behalf of 4Ocean, no matter where you live in the world. If you want to sign up or learn more, click here.