MaterialDistrict

Flip-Flop Masterpieces by Ocean Sole

Ocean Sole turns discarded flip-flops that wash up on Kenya’s shores into delightful works of art and creative products that will make you smile, while helping to clean up the world’s ocean, provide sustainable local work opportunities and reduce deforestation in an inspiring way.

The problem with flip-flops: In many developing countries such as Kenya, flip-flops are the footwear choice of millions because of their affordability and convenience. And this means big business. Global sales of flip-flops are estimated as being 15 billion per year – more than the market for sports shoes.

The vast majority of flip-flops are made with polyurethane foam, making this this kind of footwear extremely cheap to buy and make, but unfortunately not at all durable. These factors, along with underdeveloped waste management systems in many parts of the world, ensure that large numbers of flip-flops end up in the oceans, contributing to a kind of ‘Plastic Soup’ that has devastating effects on animal life.

What is Plastic Soup? Plastic waste that ends up in the sea is carried by sea currents and tends to conglomerate in particular areas into something called ‘Plastic Soup”. Plastic Soup is basically and “island” of plastic materials that forms in the ocean with some of these ‘islands’ covering up to 34 times the land area of the Netherlands. Seawater and ultraviolet light slowly disintegrate this plastic is to very fine pieces, which then enter the food chain as a toxin via the stomachs of birds and marine animals.

The Ocean Sole Solution: Flip-flops that wash up on Kenyan shores are cleaned and collected by Ocean Sole staff. The flip-flops are then glued into large blocks, which serve as the material base for a creative team of local artisans who create elephants, giraffes, lions, rhinos and many more African animals from the former ocean waste.

Ocean Sole aims to recycle around 400,000 flip-flops from Kenyan shore each year, reducing plastic pollution on the country’s beaches while creating local awareness about pollution and recycling. The company is also creating local work opportunities. Kenya has an extremely high unemployment rate, with about 40 percent of the population unemployed. In Nairobi, Ocean Sole provides work to about 100 people. In addition, a large number of local people are paid to collect discarded flip-flops.

Ocean Sole also supports a reduction in deforestation in Kenya. Many of the artists working for Ocean Sole come from tribes known for their woodcarvings, which are in great demand amongst tourists. By switching to flip-flops as a base material, the felling of tropical hardwoods in Kenya is reduced.

“My goal is to create change in the way people live and change in the way people understand the world and its connections,” says Julie Church, founder of Ocean Sole. More here.

Comments

  1. Michael Ninaber van Eijben says:

    Great article about our initiative! Readers can find us at http://www.oceansole.nl if they want to know more.

    Kind regards, Michael

  2. Michael Ninaber van Eijben says:

    Oh, and we are always open to other creative ways in which the flip flop material can be used besides creating animal statues. Designers who would like to work with the material are welcome to contact us at info@oceansole.nl