Innovator: Andrew Cooper and Alex Schulze

Founders, 4ocean
Andrew Cooper and Alex Schulze
Andrew Cooper and Alex Schulze Courtesy of 4ocean

It was a vacation to Bali that made Andrew Cooper and Alex Schulze realize how grave marine pollution had become. “The plane was landing, and I saw what I thought were big lines of seaweed,” recalls Schulze. “But they were actually little tide pools of plastic. The beach was just covered in plastic.”

Avid surfers, the two college friends founded 4ocean, a for-profit that recycles ocean plastic into bracelets that sell for $20, with proceeds used to remove another pound of plastic from the water. Since January 2017, 4ocean has sold $30 million worth of bracelets and dredged over a million pounds of trash. Their success, says Cooper, comes from creating a demand for the plastic, 8 million tons of which is dumped into the ocean annually. “We wouldn't be where we are if we weren't a private company that could scale up whenever we needed,” he says. “You have to find a sustainable business solution.”

About the program

We're saluting innovators who have developed creative solutions to the problems that face our world—pollution, economic disparity, war, discrimination and more. Say hello to the creative class of 2019.