Trash to treasure: How Old Flip flops are turned to artistic masterpieces in Kenya

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A Kenyan enterprise Ocean Sole collects and recycles discarded flip flops and other plastic waste that are usually found on beaches and waterways in order to reduce plastic pollution, conserve aquatic life as well as create jobs and beautiful art sculpture and toys for children. Their efforts will hopefully be highlighted at the 5th session of the UN Environment Assembly starting on Monday February 28th which will be held in Kenya; where curbing plastic pollution will be a hot topic.

Lillian Mulupi is a collection coordinator for Ocean Sole flip flops. According to her “Flip-flops are the most common, most affordable pair of shoes for a lot of people; rich, poor, everybody has got a pair. Since they’re very easy to afford, when a pair is done, you just throw it away get a new one .”Trash to treasure: How Old Flip flops are turned to artistic masterpieces in Kenya Trash to treasure: How Old Flip flops are turned to artistic masterpieces in Kenya

From Old Flip flops to Treasure

During environmental clean-up sessions, volunteers pick up plastic bottle caps, candy wrappers, flip flops and other kinds of plastic waste.  The flip flops which are mostly cheap, modern varieties made of foam and other plastic materials that are rubber-like; are bought by Ocean Sole. Hence, this purchase allows the collectors to earn a little extra cash to support their families.

Then, as the discarded shoes/slippers are retrieved from the beach or water ways sand, they are cleaned up and sorted into categories. The Hard plastics and PET bottles are then sold to recyclers, while the flip flops are sent to a workshop in Nairobi, for a grand makeover.

According to Africanews; “Dozens of artisans turn the flip flops into colourful sculptures and children’s toys. Off cuts and harder plastic unsuitable for sculpting are shredded into filler for mattresses. Plastic insulating Styrofoam salvaged from dumped refrigerators is used as a mould for larger works. Like elephants and giraffes that can sell for many hundred dollars. The unique artwork entirely made from marine trash is mostly sold abroad.”

Ocean Sole enterprise says it recycles between 750,000 and one million flip flops every year; and has also created around 100 full-time jobs in Kenya.

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