Plastic pollution in the oceans is one of the biggest threats to the environment. Scientists estimate that by the year 2050 there will be more plastic than fish in our oceans. The amount of trash in the ocean is an imminent threat to marine life, but it is not an exclusive problem of sea creatures, humans in different parts of the world are also affected by all the trash that washes to shore. It can be responsible for harming businesses such as tourism and fishery, but further than that, ocean pollution is a problem to human health by spreading toxins to our food chain.
Having such alarming data in mind, the 5 Minute Foundation started as an initiative to clean up the beaches in Costa Rica and it is now aiming to expand its clean-up gesture around the world through education and the use of social media to inspire change. With beach clean-ups, different educational programs and initiatives to recycle plastic, the organization fights against plastic pollution and creates awareness of the importance of the ocean.
The journey of the 5 Minute Foundation initially began with an Instagram account, encouraging people to clean up the beaches in Costa Rica under the name of the 5-Minute beach clean-ups. However, the movement quickly became big and some of its content viral, leading to the establishment of the foundation in 2018. Focusing on education and taking action to preserve the precious ocean resources, the foundation aims to eliminate plastic pollution in the ocean and find ways to recycle marine debris.
The 5 Minute Foundation now has several educational programs, including the traditional beach clean-up that gave the organization its name and aims to combine education with actions by cleaning the polluted beaches from plastic. Moreover, the foundation works together with the educational institutions in Costa Rica for the program “Ocean Heroes”, which targets young students as the founders believe that young people can be the agents of change and educate others about the happenings in the oceans. It is designed as a five-day program with one hour per day and intends to teach the students, aged from 5 to 11, about the importance of the ocean.
Next to the educational sector, the 5 Minute Foundation works together with the tourism industry in Costa Rica for their program “Friends of the Oceans” to reduce the industry’s negative impact on the environment. Therefore, the organization partnered with different hotels, where tourists can get a bucket and then search for plastics on the beach. In return, the guests will receive an incentive, such as a drink. This voluntary clean-up creates awareness and travelers will go home with a message and be more educated about the ocean.
Finally, the “Trace your Plastic” program intends to recycle marine plastics that were found on the beach into new and sustainable products, following a circular and blue economy approach. The organization as well has worked together with Philip Morris International to educate about the correct disposal of cigarette butts and to research alternatives to recycle those.
The 5 Minute Foundation wants to replicate all its projects in more communities and other countries around the world to educate citizens about the ocean and plastic pollution. Moreover, they would wish to create a platform, where everyone can have access to materials and thereby, bring the solutions to everybody. The organization as well aims to further inspire kids as they are an important part of the future and would like to partner with other organizations to not duplicate efforts and help each other to fight for cleaner oceans.
As a small grassroots company, moving from a small to a medium enterprise has been a challenge for the 5 Minute Foundation. Their biggest struggle at the moment is being able to access funding as most of the grants end up going to big non-profit companies that are already well established. The company struggles to balance its profits. This is one of the main challenges for their future growth as they want to be able to gather a structured team of workers. Currently, all the workers taking part in the 5 Minute Beach Clean Up are volunteers or have been working without making a profit.
Up to date, the organization has four programs and educated thousands of students in schools about the ocean. Around 40.000 beach clean-ups have been taken place and posted about on Social Media, and impacts have been recognized in 106 different countries around the world. Collected through the clean-ups, the organization managed to recycle and recover around 160.000 plastics successfully. Through Social Media platforms, the 5 Minute Foundation has been able to grow constantly and reach millions of people but also inspired others to take action and create accounts to fight for the environment. The organization as well has been able to collaborate with important stakeholders, such as the government and the University of Costa Rica for their programs.
The organization is working on pitching and replicating the programs in different countries around the world and finding new sources of financing. By following the approach of combining education and action, the 5 Minute Foundation wants to bring its solutions to more countries around the world and fight further against plastic pollution.