By Steve Plunkett

A waterway cleanup company that started out by selling recycled glass and plastic bracelets on the internet has extended its canal-cleaning gig in Boca Raton by up to three years.

4Ocean LLC, founded by Florida Atlantic University graduates Andrew Cooper and Alex Schulze, will be paid an estimated $180,000 a year to collect and dispose of debris from the city’s canals. The contract calls for three eight-hour days each week plus two unscheduled days each month.

4Ocean began picking up trash in the Intracoastal Waterway at no cost to Boca Raton in 2017. It funded its operations through sales of a $20 bracelet for which it promises to collect 1 pound of plastic from oceans and coastlines.

To date, it has rounded up more than 4.1 million pounds of debris, its website says. An estimated 16 billion pounds of plastic gets tossed into oceans each year, the company says.

Boca Raton waived its normal bidding procedures and awarded 4Ocean a nine-month contract in March 2018 to clean the canals. This time, 4Ocean won the contract as lowest bidder, beating Breen Acres Aquatics Inc. ($410,400), SWS Environmental Services ($844,740) and Commercial Diver Services Corp. ($900,000).

The original contract came after City Council members decided it was cheaper to outsource the cleaning than it would have been to buy a new skimmer boat and hire two full-time employees to staff it.

There are approximately 27 miles of canals within Boca Raton, city officials say.

4Ocean, headquartered in Boca Raton, prefers to call itself a “global movement” instead of a for-profit company, “removing one pound of trash at a time.”

It gives the city weekly updates on vegetation and debris quantities removed and monthly summaries with photos and videos of the material it collects. It also identifies hot spots such as the El Rio Canal and other areas of concern.

In addition to canal patrols, 4Ocean helps sponsor beach cleanups once or twice a month between Miami and Jupiter. Ú

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