Is the 4ocean bracelet a scam?

Is the 4ocean bracelet a scam?


A couple weeks ago, I did something very out of character. I saw this ad on YouTube for a company called 4ocean, which has taken on the mission of cleaning up plastic pollution in oceans around the world. “Now, we’ve become the world’s largest ocean clean-up company, employing captains and crews seven days a week to clean our oceans and coastlines.” Here’s how they fund that mission. “All of our clean-up efforts are funded entirely through the sale of our bracelet.” “The 4ocean bracelet is made from our ocean plastic and the recycled glass bottles that we collect.” Right after watching the video, I checked out their website and saw the bracelet costs $20 and the money will be used to clean one pound of trash from the oceans. I thought, “Hey, I’ve got $20 sitting around,” and I bought two of the bracelets right then and there—one for me and one for my wife. Very unlike me to decide on a purchase that quickly, but I guess I felt inspired. It was only a few minutes after clicking “Complete Order,” though, that I started to have buyer’s remorse. As I checked out the company a bit further, I discovered (and this is no secret) that 4ocean is a for-profit company, not a non-profit. So, for-profit company? That means they’re only in it for the money, right? Well, not necessarily. There could actually be a legitimate reason for 4ocean to not be a non-profit. In this article, Alex Schulze, one of the founders, says: Now, he’s slightly mischaracterizing how non-profits operate. It is actually possible for a non-profit to have a business model and sell a product, but he’s right in the sense that a non-profit could not operate in the way 4ocean does, because the law typically requires that anything a non-profit sells must be directly mission-related. It can’t just be some trinket. So, for example, if 4ocean wanted to be a non-profit, they could probably sell a book about the ocean plastic crisis and then use revenue from sales of that book to fund actual cleanups. However, if 4ocean were trying to fund its cleanups through sales of a t-shirt, candy, or . . . a bracelet, they would not be allowed to operate as a tax-exempt non-profit. So, in a way, the path 4ocean has chose, being a for-profit company, could actually be really smart for achieving their mission of cleaning the ocean. If they went the non-profit route and tried to sell a book or a documentary film, and supplement that with grants and donations, revenue might not be very high. With the bracelet, however, they appear to have achieved phenomenal sales, which means they have way more revenue to invest back in their mission. But here’s where things get a bit shady. In a non-profit, there is a high degree of accountability. The organization must prove to the government every year that they are indeed using their money to invest in their mission, and not just to line their own pockets. In a for-profit company like 4ocean, the accountability is much, much less. There’s really nothing stopping these two guys from taking millions of dollars in profit and using it for whatever they please. It seems the only organization holding 4ocean accountable is the Better Business Bureau, which has given them an “A” rating, but that “A” rating only indicates that 4ocean isn’t deceiving its customers with false claims. In a comment here, 4ocean says: Okay, so that’s great. It means the answer to the question in the title of this video is “no.” The bracelet is not technically a scam. It is made from recycled materials, and they do indeed pull a pound of trash for each bracelet sold. But the remaining question is, “How much of the $20 that customers give 4ocean is actually necessary to clean up one pound of trash?” Well, first you’ve got the manufacturing costs of the bracelet itself, which I’m sure are negligible. Next, you’ve got to provide equipment, office space, and salaries to the people running the company. And I think they deserve decent salaries. They shouldn’t have to live in poverty to prove their devotion to the mission. Nevertheless, it’s hard to imagine that payroll for operations would have to be a huge expense. Finally, you’ve got the labor cost of actually collecting the trash, and there are some pretty serious questions to be asked here. Now, some people have pointed to 4ocean’s use of volunteers, and claimed that 4ocean is fulfilling its one-pound pledge with unpaid labor. 4ocean, however, asserts that the trash collected at those volunteer events is not counted toward the pledge. I believe them on that. However, it appears that 4ocean’s paid clean-up crews operate primarily in Haiti and Indonesia, developing countries where labor is quite inexpensive. So, I feel like it’s reasonable to conclude that most of 4ocean’s 4.7 million pounds of trash has been collected at a labor cost that most Americans would find shockingly low. And consider this, too: Each year, somewhere between 14 and 18 billion pounds of trash flow into the ocean, and that’s why many places are positively covered in it. With this much trash on the beach, how much time and energy do you think 4ocean has to expend to collect one pound? I mean, look at this right here. They must be getting a pound every 30 seconds. And remember, 4ocean is charging $20 for each of those pounds. They are literally raking it in. Bascially, it comes down to this: There are two possibilities of what 4ocean is at its heart. One is that 4ocean’s business is cleaning the ocean, and the bracelet sales are just a clever way to support that. The other possibility is that 4ocean’s business . . . is selling bracelets, and the ocean cleanup is just a clever way to support that. All they have to do is maintain a credible appearance of cleaning the ocean, fulfill their quite modest pledge of one pound of trash per 20-dollar bracelet, and in comes the money. At the moment, I can’t say for sure which possibility is the reality, but it sure seems like the second one is more likely. Now, I doubt the owners of 4ocean will ever see this video, but if they did, I would just want to say one thing: “Prove me wrong.” Prove that your primary mission really is cleaning the ocean, and not making a bunch of money for yourselves. I actually wouldn’t mind being proved wrong. I already bough the bracelets, so you’ve got my money, and I would like to hear that my $40 is really going to clean the ocean, and not, like, $4 to the ocean and $36 to you guys. And the way to prove me wrong, obviously, is to release financial records showing how much you personally have profited from 4ocean. I should emphasize to everyone, I don’t consider it shameful for them to be making anything above subsistence level. I think the owners and staff of 4ocean deserve to make a decent living. However, I think we would all agree there’s a certain level of income at which it becomes obscene. I mean, imagine if in their ads they said: “Hey, we each made a couple million dollars last year.” “Pleeeease give us 20 more so we can clean the ocean.” Would you be convinced of their “mission” and their “movement” and buy the bracelet? I know I wouldn’t. And so, the final point of this video is for other consumers, like me. If you’ve got $20 sitting around, and you care about plastic pollution in the oceans, you can probably find a more worthy cause to give your money to than 4ocean. Now, that’s the meat of what I wanted to say, but if you’re interested in sticking around, I’ve got a couple of pre-emptive rebuttals. Some apologists (or paid shills) for 4ocean, might try to show 4ocean’s devotion to their cause by pointing to the partnerships 4ocean has with non-profits. Look, they’ve got people at the Orca Conservancy, the Oceanic Preservation Society, the Save the Manatee Club, and Ocean Conservancy all talking about how great 4ocean is and how proud they are to be working with them. Yeah, sure, but you should probably take a look at the fine print at the ends of those videos. So, that appears to be the extent of the “partnership”: a one-time donation. And a donation is good, of course, but it’s important to keep it in perspective. For a non-profit like Ocean Conservancy, $25,000 could be a significant amount of money, while for 4ocean, it could be a mere drop in the ocean. And the fact that the directors of these non-profits are praising 4ocean is not convincing to me of 4ocean’s purity of purpose, because it’s easy to imagine that these non-profit folks are receiving a substantial donation and free publicity from a company which is indeed pulling some trash out of the oceans, and so they think: “Well, that’s great for our cause and our organization, so I’m not going to concern myself with whether these two guys are making great personal profit by selling overpriced bracelets.” I don’t think that’s a cynical thing to imagine. It’s just realistic. Some people also might point to 4ocean’s Ocean Plastic Recovery Vessel as evidence of the enormous, selfless investments they’ve made in their mission. Yeah, I’m not convinced there, either, for a few reasons. One, who knows how much the ship cost? It’s a repurposed oil barge. It might have been fairly cheap, particularly when compared to 4ocean’s revenue. If the ship cost two million dollars, but their revenue last year was 40 million, then it’s not really a huge investment. Nor can you call it a selfless one. Like all of 4ocean’s equipment, the ship is branded out the wazoo, so it’s clearly intended to create brand awareness and generate publicity for the company, which it has, like in this glowing news report. “Ocean Plastic Recovery Vessel 1 got christened last night, I was honored to be there in Fort Lauderdale, and it’s now ready to extricate millions of tons of plastic from the ocean worldwide.” And now, the biggest question of all about the ship: The news report says the ship is ready to collect “millions of TONS of plastic,” and here, 4ocean itself says this: “That’s why we’re launching the Ocean Plastic Recovery campaign. It will end 90% of the world’s ocean plastic pollution forever.” 90 percent?! So, yeah, we’re talking about millions, if not tens or even hundreds of millions of pounds of plastic. The ship was launched in November of 2018, and yet, at the moment, 4ocean’s pledge of one pound of trash per twenty-dollar bracelet hasn’t been updated. You would think by now they would have said something like: “Hey, guys! We’ve got this great new, super-efficient technique for collecting the plastic, so now, for each twenty-dollar bracelet, we’re going to collect 100 pounds of plastic!” I’m not expecting an announcement like that anytime soon. Also really suspicious is that the entire internet seems to have no photos or video of the Ocean Plastic Recovery Vessel in action. There’s some video of the ship out at sea, but no video of it actually collecting garbage. Even stranger, if you search for “4ocean ‘ocean plastic recovery'”— like, to see if their site has any updates on the project— you’ll find this result: “Anchored in high-impact river mouths, blah blah blah, the OPR vessel, blah blah blah . . .” And when you click on the link, you get a 404 error. Very odd. It seems like the project has been abandoned, and all that’s left online are a few promotional videos from its launch. Maybe they had to abandon it because of some technical problem. Or, maybeeeee . . . there’s a more cynical conclusion you could draw here, and I’ll let you do that for yourself. No matter what, the ship does not convince me that 4ocean is making enormous and revolutionary investments in the ocean cleanup effort. The only thing that’s going to convince me I’m not a sucker for buying these bracelets is if these two surfer dudes reveal how much they personally have profited from their business. Bye.

100 Comments

  1. Hey All! This is Corey from the 4ocean team.

    We’ve been following the comments and in the spirit of transparency, we want to clear up some questions about our business and mission to help solve the ocean plastic crisis.

    The big question this video asks is whether our founders, Andrew and Alex, are pocketing most of the money generated from bracelet sales. The answer: no.

    To date, each founder has taken less than 0.7% of our revenue in total compensation since starting the company in 2017. Which means over 98.6% of our revenue is being invested in our clean ocean mission, including cleanups, staff (we have a team of over 300 around the world), marketing to raise awareness, donations to ocean charities, and new ocean cleanup technologies. You should also know our Trash Tracker represents pounds we’ve pulled, not bracelets sold, and our trash collection is far ahead of our bracelet sales count.

    Since we’re a private company we don’t publicly share financials, but Andrew and Alex have submitted their personal tax returns and 4ocean’s financials to the Better Business Bureau to verify that they each have received less than 0.7% of our total revenue in personal compensation.

    Another question raised was about the status of our OPR vessel. Here’s the straight answer: it’s not ready yet. We still have great hope for the vessel, but we’ve been tied up with modifications, testing, and certifications. We took down the OPR videos and the webpage because they were out of date. My fault, I’m the marketing guy. We have an update coming soon.

    We definitely understand why some could assume the worst in the absence of information. Our goal is to clean up the ocean and we promise to do a better job telling the complete story and shining light on everything we’re doing to help solve the ocean plastic crisis.
    We’ll soon be posting videos to be more transparent and address questions we’re often asked, so check back at 4ocean.com to learn more.

    There are a lot of great organizations working to rid our ocean of plastic. An estimated 16 billion pounds of plastic enter the ocean each year, so it’s going to take every idea, approach, and business model to reverse the damage to our ocean. We applaud all efforts and encourage everyone to take action, contribute, and volunteer wherever you can, be that with 4ocean or with any of the other companies trying to tackle this crisis.

  2. Im pretty sure this guy is only jealous, Why even bother thinking how much will they earn lol?boiii they are saving our ocean.

  3. A great mission with Very expensive fuel payroll Maintenance equipment and people risking they’re lives on these boats keep up the good work

  4. There cleaning our ocean with big vessels that cost a lot to run really dude you got nothing better to do or just hating on them look at all the support them guys have look at what there doing one there risking there life even time they sail it’s cool to have A bracelet made from trash removed from the ocean I’m a fisherman an I see the shit out there so it’s just nice to know someone give a shit. Your not a sucker your a hater smh 🛥

  5. I like how everyone just believes this guy but you are saying how can we believe 4ocean how can you believe this internet bastard spreading lies

  6. Danye you should be ashamed of bashing this group. They deserve to make money they are cleaning the f'ing ocean up. ARE YOU??

  7. What are YOU doing to clean the ocean? You’re an idiot. $20.00 is well worth it to start educating people on what they’re doing to this world. Go do something and stop whining

  8. Dayne you’re a potato you’re just trying to make some content.
    Who cares about this there cleaning the ocean. If you want to complain clean the bloody ocean yourself u little prick

  9. Yeah but what you don’t understand is they take 20 dollars because they have to pay the people, clean 1 lb of trash, buy boats, get gas, all for $20 like this so he can see

  10. well – I mean everyone knows you're not just buying an overpriced bracelet! what a bullshit statement. at least they're doing something. what the fuck is the problem? if they're proved to be profiting on a level of greed they will be shammed out of existence. thanks for the critique but for now I have to believe them. about to purchase my 1st bracelet. Plastic must be pulled from as many sources of industry and commerce as possible. There is no fucking planet B

  11. You are making money only by pointing finger at them. At least they are doing something to make the world a better place does not matter how much their revenue is these days people get scammed in every way possible. Still they are providing a service with a bracelet.

  12. As long as they are not dumping the trash they collected back into the ocean to collect them again, I'm cool with what they're doing.

  13. Duuude, non profit and charities are a fantasy! If you want to clean up what capitalism has done a non-profit has no power or way to grow in a meaningful way. Imagine a billion dollar company doin the right thing! Mayor difference in the market. Check out what akon does in africa. Make it a win-win situation and get off your “helpin” and “saving the planet” just in air and love shit. You would not accept a job like this. Whatever 4ocean does, they do the thing. No way to prove it or not. They should personally profitable! More than a banker or not? What the fuck is this? Yes i would be convinced! Fuck this hippie shit, brought us nowhere. Make environmentalism cool. Put a tesla in my garage when I save the planet and everybody would do it hahaha. Your logic has so many wholes. What is your goal! Tel them
    To stop cleaning the ocean when they make too much money with it? Hahaha fuck man, you have too much time!

  14. Well I don’t give a damn, they’re clean our ocean they deserve the money:) if u dont like it clean the damn ocean yourself
    Bye

  15. Even if they are making a profit , at least they’re doing something to save the oceans instead of just sitting around talking about the problem like mot people.

  16. How do you think they have to stay afloat as a company? MONEY IDIOT ATLEAST THEY ARE DOING SOMETHING ACCEPT SOME DUMB EGG HEAD SITTING INFRONT A CAMERA CRYING ABOUT A COMPANY CLEANING UP THE OCEAN AND STAYING AFLOAT OFCZ THEY NEED MONEY IF THEY DONT HAVE CASH THEY COULDNT BE A COMPANY IDIOT

  17. All you need to do is make your own cool company name pretend you're a big-time company (that no one knows about) and say "we're doing community service, we need a lot of help, come and help us" and you'll get everyone at the beach to help.

    I've tried this and know it works it's quite cool to see a bunch of people help out just by wearing a shirt that looks convincing.

  18. 6:05 Honesty both possibilities work, if it was the first one great, they have good intentions, if its the second, they just want money, but at least they still clean the ocean

  19. The government has the money to give but they don’t have the people who care. So I think 4ocean gaining money from their business is right.

  20. bracelets bracelets blah blah blah yes they are actually cleaning the ocean so what did u do to save the dolphins besides a cringe click bate vid ? good to encourage companies into transparency but much better idea to pressure unsustainable corporate big dogs first whom are shamelessly and openly known to pollute the enviro.. as for the salaries I’m pretty sure these couple of surfers really do care more about waves than $ !!

  21. these are the kind of people who care about saving money more then saving the earth, screw you people who think the same way as this big a-hole

  22. 2:02 how many people do you think have time to read nowadays, they are clearly uninterested. I can say that for sure because in an American time use survey, in 2004 about roughly 28 percent of 15 year olds read books and now it has dropped to 19% and even below. Reading declines are higher among men. Reading for pleasure fell from 25% to 15% in 2017 and women 31% to 22%, now imagine the percentage in 2019 and the years to come. A survey data by Christopher Ingraham shows declined in leisure reading across all ages. From 1955 to 1995 TV time EXPLODED. Its logic! The book you are suggesting certainly fall into the leisure category as I don't think the school's curriculum will accept it. In 2019, mostly our youths are deeply addicted to their smartphones and the internet has enabled them to connect worldwide. Now you tell me, what would be more interesting to people buying a book or buying a bracelet? Moreover, books need paper and paper comes from trees that means more cutting down of trees whereas the bracelets are being recycled and used. At least they are doing something. Go watch the Chitaram river, go watch Leonardo DiCaprio's before the flood and you will see people worst than 4Ocean, by that I mean GOVERNMENTS AND BIG POEPLE OWNERS OF OIL MINES.

  23. your just an asshole these guys are doing someone good like cleaning up trash and getting paid to do it employing people creating jobs cleaning beaches while your lazy ass is just sitting infront of a computer talking shit instead of asking the owners questions

  24. Do you spend this much time and effort on every $40 expense you make? Fact is, they are doing a good thing and making a profit. SO! Nobody forced you to spend your money.

  25. I took your comments to the translator to understand exactly what they were saying and divine surprise … they only offended you that wasted time.

  26. I saw the commercial 10 minutes ago and was prompted to the website to check the bracelets. It said somewhere in my reading than less than 5% of the material used in the bracelet is the actual trash that they have salvaged from the ocean. Thank you this was a very good video to watch before making my decision about a purchase.

  27. There cleaning the ocean and the bracelets are good and most of us aren’t even cleaning so it’s better then leaving our trash in the ocean

  28. You know they are cleaning the ocean, they are upfront that they are a business so you know where they stand and what they are about. I don't see why people need to be so negative about them. You are either a part of the solution or your not. No one is being scammed here.

  29. 4Ocean is a scam because can’t you clean up rubbish for free but if you pay for the bracelet you clean up by giving $20 to them

  30. Even if possibility 2 is what 4Ocean is all about…who cares? At least they are cleaning the oceans…no one is being forced to buy the bracelets either.
    This is also y they work with Haiti, not because they will work for low costs but because…https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3We8hSrR9Eg just copy the link into the YouTube search bar and see for yourself.

  31. 4ocean is a scam. Nothing they say makes any sense. They've claimed over 1 million pounds of trash removed, which would mean $20 million in bracelet sales which is ridiculous. My guess is that they've generated $50-$100,000 in such sales and their tax returns should show that. Then, all they have are these slick videos where everyone and everything has their logo on it. It would cost $10,000 to produce all of that stuff, yet there are no photos/video of these actual clean ups, of which there should be hundreds. Their claim of operating a fleet of boats is ridiculous because cleaning trash out of the water itself is highly inefficient. The shore lines is where it accumulates and frankly is endless. I had been wanting to do river/ocean clean up and contacted them when I saw their video asking if they had any group here in Tokyo or would like to set one up. The morons just ignored me, no human response but rather they just spammed incessantly asking me to buy a bracelet. Note that they were not about trash clean up or such volunteer offers would receive all sorts of information on how to get started. So, I set up my own group, Tokyo River Friends, and over a two year period we've removed over 3,000 bags of trash or about 50,000 pounds with no funding at all, just volunteers joining 3 events a month. Assuming I could clear $15 off of a $20 trinket sale, according to their math, that 50,000 pounds my group has removed in 2 years would have netted me $750,000 for 3 events per month over 2 years. That would be about 4 times my annual salary where I work 20 days per week. If I prorated the 3 days of trash clean up events to 20 days per month or full time, it would be a salary of well over $2 million per year. I'm not saying these guys have not collected some trash. They have, but they are absolutely lying about the volume, and it's just a prop to generate sales. Having organized and led about 75 clean up events since 2018, I know a phony when I see one and these guys are PHONY!!! Thank you for posting this video. BTW, the BBB has no way of confirming how much trash they collected. I think all they care about is whether or not they deliver the bracelets, provide refunds, etc.

  32. I mean they’re cleaning the ocean that’s all that matters if they get some profit for doing good stuff it’s whatever

  33. Why is it so terrible for them to make a profit for the work they are doing? They are cleaning the ocean, they work hard and should be able to make a living, even a good living. I wish more people would create businesses like this. Support 4Ocean! Thank you, 4Ocean for making a difference.

  34. jesus yeah ok they’re getting profit, but at least they’re helping. who are we supposed to give our money to?? our corrupt government won’t even do anything. and most of us aren’t even cleaning, or doing anything to help. stop finding little mistakes in what these guys are doing because they are CONTRIBUTING to helping the planet we live in.

  35. I think that why people may chose 4ocean over other charities/missions is that they think that they are actually getting something out of their donation (hence the bracelet) they feel like they can show off that they are are good person without actually knowing where their money is going too.Instead of just donating to a possibly more substantial organization and having nothing to show for it. Plus 4ocean is really popular witch plays a huge factor in sales

  36. I believe there is no coordination between the amount of trash pulled and the amount of bracelets sold. The bracelets just pay for the labor and since there isn’t really a set amount of pounds per idk “labor cost” . There is really not a good way to tell if their getting one pound out for every bracelet if they’re just getting whatever plastic they scoop up instead of getting exactly the amount of bracelets sold. So if they’re constantly picking up trash without even looking at the amount of bracelets sold, the “One pound per bracelet” isn’t correct if they’re just getting whatever trash anyways. But I still think whatever they’re doing is fine since they’re helping. It’s not a scam if your money still goes towards cleaning the ocean.

  37. Thanks for this video. If it hadn’t been for it, I would have never known about 4Ocean. What an awesome concept to clean up what selfish people have messed up. I will gladly “buy” a bracelet for one pound of plastic. Because parasailing over a dirty ocean and going to a trashy beach for my milestone birthday was disheartening. Where can I sign up to volunteer to help these mindful entrepreneurs???

  38. I'm not really sure it's $20 for every pound they clean up- I'm almost positive they clean more than what they earn. That's a LOT of trash and I don't know if sales are that high.

  39. I have a non-profit question. You said they couldn't sell bracelets if they were a non-profit, but if they were a non-profit, they could say the bracelet was a gift for their $20 donation legally? Isn't that what PBS does?

  40. In our times value is linked strongly with money and so putting a money value on good deeds can work if the initiators are sincere, not too greedy and self obsessed. Charities aren't necessarily all sweetness and light. I have worked in them.  If plastic becomes part of the economic value system ie a resource, then people will gladly recycle it. As a kid I earned my pocket by collecting and returning empty glass drink bottles to the retail store, that was in 1960. Now technology has advanced to the point where  plastic waste can be turned into railway sleepers and also into fuel. (https://www.insidewaste.com.au/index.php/2019/06/25/railway-sleepers-made-from-recycled-plastic-gain-traction-in-victoria/https://inhabitat.com/japanese-inventor-akinori-ito-creates-machine-that-converts-plastic-bags-into-fuel/     cheers Pete

  41. Don’t agree with you pal. Go clean up and make a difference. Go do labor work instead bitching about it. However, it’s your opinion but I don’t respect it. That’s mine opinion

  42. This video is outdated.
    Since this video they called him on his accusations. Look into 4ocean and make up your own mind. I believed him at first and was very upset as i had bought a bracelet and told others. So when i saw this i was ….well i was pissed. But after looking up what they've done and where the actual boats are and what they do.
    And i have to now call THIS guy out. He tries to come off as being someone who just wants to find out what's going on . But he is not as friendly as he seems. He very apparently has an agenda. He tries to make himself look so innocent in his questions.but his statements are very damaging and his questions to us are very condescending.
    Why dont we look at some things HE says.. He says prove him wrong…they Have! Please dont listen to him, look them up and decide for yourself.

  43. Anyone else pick up trash on the beach or the ocean when they are there? I do and save $20. Join in on saving our oceans and planet, we all live here

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