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Kenyan business Ocean Sole is flipping the flop from waste to art

Date: 06-Jun-18
Author: Alejandra Laclette

A Kenya business is turning thongs (AKA flip flops) into sustainable art © Ocean Sole

A Kenya business is turning thongs (AKA flip flops) into sustainable art

When talking about ocean plastic pollution, flip-flops (also known as thongs by Aussies) is not something that immediately comes to mind. However, the waste created by tonnes of this type of footwear has a relevant contribution to current plastic ocean pollution and the degradation of marine ecosystems as reported by the UNEP.

The story of Ocean Sole began from the moment Julie Church picked up a flip-flop on Kiwayu Beach in Kenya in the 90’s. Since then, Ocean Sole has gone through a journey where EVA (ethylene-vinyl acetate) flip-flop soles, are collected from the ocean and turned into pieces of art. This process has not only cleaned up flip-flop pollution from the ocean, but it has also created jobs for locals. They now sell their recycled pieces of art across the world through their “sole mates” distributors that can be found on their website.

According to Green Max, current global EVA recycling rates are quite low. Ocean Sole claims that they recycle 400,000 flip-flops a year, collect 300 kg of waste every day, and employs 50 artists to create the colourful pieces. They also support the wider community, by purchasing flip-flop waste from people who collect them from the coasts and provide benefits to their employees such as maternity/paternity leave, complimentary lunches, reimbursement of medical costs and annual leave as reported by the IPP.

The UNEP has reported that ocean pollution costs $8 billion USD annually, with $344 million USD attributed to footwear. This initiative is not enough to tackle ocean plastic pollution; however, it is the perfect example of how positive environmental actions from a few individuals can truly make a difference.

Planet Ark encourages you not only to correctly dispose of your waste so that it can be recycled but also to tackle the problem at the source, by making responsible purchasing decisions and avoiding fast fashion items that won’t last very long and have a massive environmental footprint.

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Positive Environment News has been compiled using publicly available information. Planet Ark does not take responsibility for the accuracy of the original information and encourages readers to check the references before using this information for their own purposes. 


Alejandra                                         Laclette
Author: Alejandra Laclette

After managing the sustainability educational program at her corporate job in Mexico, Alejandra decided to move to Sydney and undertake a Master in Sustainable Development, while working as a Sustainability Consultant for a compostable packaging company. She's now Planet Ark's Recycling Label Program Manager.

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