When reading some of the controversies of 4oceans, claims of the brand misleading customers as a charity struck as most significant. Considering a bracelet costs $20 USD, the financial transparency in cost is somewhat contested. As it is a certified B corporation, the coupling of a business model with environmental services such as ocean-cleanups arguably mitigates conventional, exploitative for-profit organisations. The brand name 4oceans arguably may mislead customers, in which only a very small proportion of the materials that go into the bracelet come directly from ocean waste. Yet, the fact that the company pledges to “pull a pound” of trash with every item sold, also held accountable by the Better Business Bureau shows a commitment for the ocean. The brand has been able to attain a consumer base, whilst simultaneously keeping to their word of ocean cleanups and responsible production. Despite not being a charity, the brand is able to largely uphold sustainable practices that benefit the greater environment and society, which are supported by numerous certifications.
The 4oceans bracelet arguably has created itself to be a symbol for ocean awareness, in which every bracelet sold guarantees 1 pound of plastic to be pulled from the ocean, rivers and coastlines. Their slogan utilises a form of bandwagon technique, saying that purchasing this bracelet automatically qualifies you to as a member of the ‘clean ocean movement’, with a mission to stop plastic pollution also at its source through education.
Coming in a range of colours, each represents a different type of animal that is directly affected by ocean plastic waste. This marketing strategy promotes consumption in an informative way, in which greater awareness and attention is simultaneously raised towards the consequences of plastic pollution in the ocean. The actual components of the bracelet are said to be entirely composed of recycled materials, in which the transparent beads are made from recycled glass bottles and the coloured cord produced from recycled plastic water bottles. Though when looking into it further, only less 5% of the glass beads and plastic cord are made with reclaimed ocean waste and the other 95% comes from post-consumer use plastic and glass based in China. This is said to be due to the UV degradation that compromise the quality of plastic, thus other these sources of recycled plastic and glass are used. Despite not producing the bracelet solely from ocean waste, it still promotes the idea of circularity and a sustainable production process. A contradiction to their statement of being 100% made with recycled materials however, is the attachment of of a stainless steel 4oceans logo on each bracelet.
4oceans is very transparent in the process of plastic collection and recycling. Documenting every pound of trash recovered and furthermore being verified on a quarterly basis by the Better Business Bureau (BBB), largely supports the business’ credibility in their statements. Getting verified from the BBB, means the company has ensured to maintain a multitude of requirements, such as demonstrating truthful advertising practices.
Plastic collection points vary across Florida, Indonesia and Haiti, where the plastic dredged from the waterways are treated and processed into new products. First, the plastic is sorted by its type (PET, polypropylene etc.), colour and condition. These are then sent to a partner facility that recycle the materials through washing, flaking and pelletizing that allow them to be upcycled into new products. The company relies on partner firms based in China, to recycle and produce the beads and cords that compose the bracelet.
A downside of processing some plastics, is that they are hard to recycle and may end up in landfills as a last resort or sometimes used for thermal treatment for electricity production. Due to the nature of plastic, the toxic dioxins released in its incineration and the duration of decomposition is environmentally damaging. Though, seeing this as a last resort and occurring as a result of sourcing waste materials, it is evident that 4oceans still takes active steps to enforce a circular production system.
4oceans is a certified B corporation, that balances purpose and profit with their business. Despite normative perceptions of for-profit businesses, 4oceans has earned numerous commendable certifications such as ‘Climate Neutral +’, ‘GreenCircle Certified’, ‘Global Recycled Standard’, ‘Global Organic Textile Standard’ and many more that make it trustworthy. One thing in particular that I find quite admirable is that they don’t only rely on sales for ocean clean-ups, in which regular voluntary beach cleanups are also organised to promote their overall environmental mission.
Considering 4oceans outsources its recycling in China, there is a lack of transparency in terms of its working conditions and employed labour force. This aspect somewhat impacts the evaluation of the brand to be deemed as all-round sustainable, as there is little information of what happens with their partner organisations.
In terms of the actual bracelet itself, they are hand-assembled in Bali by a team of majoritively female workers. Materials are sent to a main facility in Deensar, Bali and distributed to remote villages spanning across the island. This wider outreach of production, enables women who normally take on the role of being primary caretakers to be empowered and join the labour force.