Ocean Cleanup: Inspiring Organizations that Fight Pollution in our Seas

by | Dec 19, 2022 | Ocean Advocacy

Many dangers threaten the existence of our beloved manta rays and many other marine creatures, as well as the health of our planet.

In the past year, I wrote about how using the wrong sunscreen can damage coral reefs (which in turn causes a ripple effect that goes all the way up to big marine animals), how plastic pollution affects manta rays, and about non-profit organizations that help protect our marine life.

This time, I’d like to shine a light on the organizations that come in after damage has been done. They put their efforts into cleaning up our mess and trying to reverse the damage.

1. The Funding Funnel: #TeamSeas

While #teamseas don’t get directly involved in ocean cleanup, they make things happen – and funnel the funds they raise to multiple other organizations on a mission to clean up our oceans.

In 2021, they held an impressive campaign to collect 30 million dollars, supporting The Ocean Cleanup and Ocean Conservancy (more about them below) to clean 30 million pounds of trash from beaches, oceans, and rivers.

But they didn’t stop there; they collected 3 million more in the past year. Can you just imagine what 3 million pounds of trash look like?

Find out more about supporting #TeamSeas on their website!

2. The Ocean Cleanup: the Real Thing

The Ocean Cleanup is on a mission to completely clean the oceans of plastic. To do this, they develop, test, and use innovative technologies. You might have seen me post on social media about some of their impressive progress over the past year!

TOC aims to clean up 90% of floating ocean plastic by 2040. That is HUGE.

They’re developing the first scalable solution to intercept plastics from rivers before reaching the ocean.

But they’re also inventing systems to clean floating plastics caught swirling in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

And they’ve got a pretty cool dashboard where they share their progress, so we can all feel like we’re a part of it (which we are, as supporters and donors)!

Find out more and support The Ocean Cleanup here!

3. Oceanconservancy.org and the International Coastal Cleanup

Oceanconservancy.org has a lot of different things going on – the one project I would like to highlight today is Trash Free Seas.

They work with businesses to change products, practices, and behaviors that lead to ocean trash, and they research and raise awareness about ocean trash with the public as well as decision-makers.

On top of all that, they organize a massive volunteer effort in the International Coastal Cleanup, which happens every year in September.

Find out more about oceanconservancy.org and support them here!

4. SeaChange: Recycling Plastics from a Ship

SeaChange attacks the plastic pollution problem from a different perspective: they’re on a mission to eliminate the unsorted, low-value plastics that cannot be economically recycled. That’s about 60% of the waste found on beaches around the world.

SeaChange has repurposed existing technology into a system (a mobile response unit called Plastic Enhanced Melter or PEM) that breaks down plastic into its molecular components.

As a result, the PEM produces a glass that is completely safe – and can be used to restore coral reefs or even build new structures.

Putting the PEM on a ship could get rid of up to 15 tons of plastic a day…

Sounds too good to be true?

Watch the video on their homepage to find out how it works.

This system also claims to be the solution for ghost nets (abandoned fishing gear) that entangle wildlife around the world – like what happened to Notch, the Rescued Dolphin).

With every dollar we contribute, they could potentially get 3 pounds (1.36kg) of plastic off the planet.

Find out how you can help them achieve their goal on the website!

5. How 4ocean Turned Fishermen into Cleanup Crews

4ocean was founded by two surfers who went to Bali for the waves and came back with a sustainable business idea.

After talking to local fishermen, they realized ocean pollution impacts coastal communities (almost) as much as it affects marine life. So they came up with a plan to turn the fishermen into full-time captains and pay their crew to recover plastic and other trash from the sea…

Just a couple of years later, 4ocean is one of the world’s largest ongoing ocean cleanup organizations. They provide steady, living-wage employment to hundreds of professionals who clean oceans, rivers and coastlines every day… instead of catching fish.

The jobs they create help to counteract the inevitable economic impact of pollution on local communities. They also incentivize stewardship and bring new opportunities for education and prosperity to coastal residents.

The way they fund these activities is pretty original: Balinese artisans create bracelets from recovered plastic cord and recycled glass beads. You can even sign up for a “bracelet of the month”!

6. Sea2see: Sunglasses and Making WAVES

Sea2see has a similar way of raising funds for their activities, selling sunglasses (made from recycled plastic) and watches in their shop.

They want to redesign a supply change where waste has value and call their approach “making positive WAVES”:

  • Waste: where we see waste, they see raw material.
  • Awareness: they focus on educating the public and transforming how people see waste
  • Value – once waste is collected properly, it becomes valuable.
  • Earnings – marginalized coastal communities are offered a new source of income from collecting waste. For every 5kg of waste they collect, they earn €1.
  • Solution – with less plastic, you get a cleaner coast, a cleaner ocean, more fish, and a “seastainable” supply chain.

You can support them by checking out their store.

Join the Fight Against Ocean Pollution

A healthy ocean means a healthy planet.

We are all affected by ocean pollution, and we must all play a small-but-essential role in stopping it. By supporting the non-profits on this page, by supporting other organizations that help protect our marine life, or by starting at home by reducing your use of plastic every day.

Note: some of the organizations I mention here are well-known, and I’ve been talking about them for some time, while others escaped my radar and only showed up when I started researching for this article.

I would appreciate any input you have about more organizations and activities that deserve a place in the spotlight – or feedback on any of the ones I featured here.

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