Huntington Beach, Seal Beach surfers offer alternatives to food-package waste
The four Surfrider pals have developed a line of eco-friendly cups, straws, box and utensils.
Holding a recyclable paper cup and paper straws is Shane Coons, co-founder and manager of 4 blue waves, a Costa Mesa company that provides food packaging solutions to environmental issues. The products fit one of four categories: including: reusable, recyclable, compostable or biodegradable. Photo taken Thursday, November 14, 2019, at Bolsa Chica State Beach. (Photo by Mark Rightmire, Orange County Register/SCNG)
By MARTIN WISCKOL | firstname.lastname@example.org | Orange County Register
PUBLISHED: November 18, 2019 at 6:48 am | UPDATED: November 18, 2019 at 10:56 am
Like many beachgoers, Shane Coons and three surfing pals pick up trash during visits. But unlike many, they don’t walk away satisfied that means they’ve done their share.
By the spring of 2018, they were plotting, after surf sessions, to make a greener Southern California — and one with bluer waves.
Those plastic straws? The four now manufacture straws that are 100% paper. Plastic-lined coffee cups? Theirs have half as much plastic and can be recycled. Plastic sippy cup lids for coffee? They have “butterfly” cups with self-contained spill-free tops you can drink from.
Their company, 4 blue waves, incorporated in May 2018 and has quickly developed a full line of green — or at least greener — products, including fast food containers, compostable wooden utensils and reusable bamboo plates.
Now it’s a matter helping consumers and retailers catch up with the transition to more environmentally friendly single-use containers, utensils, cups and straws. At beach cleanups, 75% of the trash are food and beverage related, Coons said in a post-surf interview at a Bolsa Chica State Beach snack bar patio.
“We’re on the front edge of the wave,” he said. “Awareness is growing. … There’s a great need to make progress in the food and restaurant industry, and there’s a lot of technology that’s not being utilized.”
The company’s marquee product — the recyclable cup with less plastic content — can be found in some two dozen coffee shops and cafes throughout Southern California so far. Among other possible users is SoFi Stadium — the future home of Rams and Chargers — with a meeting scheduled to discuss the possibility later this month.
The cups are more common in the United Kingdom, where Coca Cola is using them, and Australia. But Coons and company expect that trend of state and local laws limiting the use of food-related plastics will buoy demand in Southern California.
“It’s a fully viable technology that is in use elsewhere,” Coons said. “What we’re trying to do is get it to catch on here.”
‘The passion I wanted’
Coons, a 48-year-old Seal Beach business attorney, had been looking for environment-friendly business clients in early 2018 when he attended the first Rising Tide Summit in San Pedro. The now-annual conference attracts environmental activists and green businesses with a particular focus on the ocean.
At the event, he met the owners of Newport Beach-based Smart Planet Technologies, which doesn’t make the recyclable cup but holds the patent for it and helps those interested in manufacturing the product. That started the ball rolling.
He then recruited three fellow Surfrider Foundation activists: Huntington Beach’s Laurie Hammond, Tony Soriano and a third man who asked not to be named to avoid conflicts with the boss at his day job. The four, who all continue at their primary workplaces, have a combined 40 years of volunteering for Surfrider.
“I was looking for people with the talent and the passion I wanted to work with, as well as sales and organizational skills,” Coons said from a stool outside the Bolsa Chica snack bar, high clouds wafting through the skies while a pair of surfers made their way across the sand. The unnamed co-founder was also on hand after having surfed with Coons earlier.
The four have no employees — any collecting of cups from their clients’ shops for recycling is done by them, for now. The self-funded startup hopes to break even next year and allow all four to begin working full time for the company. Right now, Coons is putting in the lion’s share of work, which he estimates at 60 hours a week.
The 158 million single-use coffee cups used and discarded in the U.S. each day are enough to fill 500 football fields 10-feet high, according to Coons. That’s nearly 58 billion cups a year — if set end to end, enough to go around the Earth 147 times.
With Asia severely curtailing its import of recyclables in recent years, California — like much of the country — finds itself with inadequate infrastructure to process recyclables. As a result, much of it is ending up in landfills.
While many of the 4 blue waves cups suffer the same fate, Coons points out that at least they cut in half the plastic content that will linger in landfills. While the cups can be recycled — and many are — the company cannot officially market them as recyclable unless it is recycling at least 60%, a target Coons hopes to hit within two years.
First, the company needs to win more cooperation from clients’ shops in segregating the cups. And it needs to set up a more formal collection system to get the cups to the specialized recycling centers in Santa Ana and Downey that handle the material.
Coons is also hoping to get more and bigger venues, places where people typically do not take the cups “to go,” like movie theaters, stadiums, resorts, amusement parks and colleges.
While they’re working with a company developing a fully biodegradable cup that can hold hot liquids, Coons and his colleagues are nonetheless eager to promote products using existing technology.
“We don’t want the perfect to stand in the way of the good,” Coons said, glancing at the nearby waves rolling in.
As for the other products, straws are the next biggest seller. A couple dozen cafes and shops are using them now and the company is on talks with other potential users. The company’s paper straws informally tested by the Southern California News Group sat in water for nearly an hour before the first sign of softening. While the cups cost a couple pennies more than their traditional counterparts, the straws cost about twice as much as their market rivals, Coons said.
The cups and straws are among the company’s products manufactured in China, with the company preparing to move those operations to Southern California next year.
Meanwhile, Coons eyes drift back to the ocean. The late morning breeze is light, and a combination of southwest and northwest swells is producing alluring peaks.
“Maybe we need to paddle back out.”
Businesses using recyclable cups from 4 blue waves, a Costa Mesa company that provides food packaging solutions to environmental issues. The products fit one of four categories: including: reusable, recyclable, compostable or biodegradable. Photo taken Thursday, November 14, 2019, at Bolsa Chica State Beach. (Photo by Mark Rightmire, Orange County Register/SCNG)
Recyclable paper straws from 4 blue waves, a Costa Mesa company that wants to provide quality products that are solutions to environmental issues. The products fit one of four categories: including: reusable, recyclable, compostable or biodegradable. Photo taken Thursday, November 14, 2019, at Bolsa Chica State Beach. (Photo by Mark Rightmire, Orange County Register/SCNG)
4 Blue Waves is Awarded the Coveted Preferred Vendor Status of the
Ocean Friendly Restaurants Program by the Surfrider Foundation
July 10, 2019
Huntington Beach, CA - 4 Blue Waves, LLC is distinguished as a Preferred Vendor in association with the Ocean Friendly Restaurants program offered through the Surfrider Foundation. Started locally in Huntington Beach, CA, the Ocean Friendly Restaurants program has spread nationwide. Nearly 500 restaurants currently participate. The program offers restaurants an easy way to show their commitment to making sustainable choices for the benefit of our ocean.
To help restaurants meet and exceed the Ocean Friendly Restaurant standards, 4 Blue Waves offers Green Products 4 Our Blue Planet™, including brandable high-quality reusable, recyclable, compostable, and biodegradable food and beverage packaging. Among these products are durable dishwasher safe reusable bamboo cups, plates, bowls and platters. 4 Blue Waves also carries barrier coated paper products, such as hot and cold cups and takeout boxes that are engineered with patented EarthCoating®, which cuts plastic by more than half compared to traditional paper products and are easily pulpable for recycling. Other disposable products include bamboo sheath and palm, wood utensils, as well as paper cups, takeout containers, and straws.
About 4 Blue Waves
What sets 4 Blue Waves apart is its concern for a product after it has been used. 4 Blue Waves strongly believes in closing the loop in a circular economy by educating the food service industry, consumers, waste haulers, and public agencies on how its products can be diverted from the landfill and turned into a commodity. 4 Blue Waves is also dedicated to giving back with a portion of its proceeds going toward ocean protection and research.
About the Surfrider Foundation
The Surfrider Foundation is dedicated to the protection and enjoyment of the world's ocean, waves and beaches through a powerful activist network with over 80 Chapters across the country. This impressive national network of Surfrider Foundation volunteers serves as a first response to local threats in coastal communities across the country.
It has never been easier or more important to get involved. 4 Blue Waves is proud to assist by providing better alternatives to Ocean Friendly Restaurants.
To learn more about 4 Blue Waves, please contact
4 Blue Waves provides Green Products 4 Our Blue Planet™ that inspire solutions to environmental issues