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Flipflopi turns plastic waste into stunning Kenyan boats

Lately, coastal areas have been more and more affected by waste washed up on the shores. It is a results of over-dependence on single-use gadgets, particularly these made from plastic, in addition to insufficient waste-management techniques. The Flipflopi Undertaking seeks to deal with these challenges by empowering native communities to harness options that upcycle single-use plastic waste.

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Two women sorting plastic waste

Lamu’s waste administration challenges

In 2015, Ben Morison based the Flipflopi Undertaking as a strategy to sort out plastic waste washed up on the shores of the Lamu archipelago in Kenya. For the reason that primary island of Lamu is disconnected from large-scale waste administration and recycling techniques on the Kenyan mainland, there is just one waste disposal website for a inhabitants of 30,000. Consequently, waste usually piles up across the island and is burned out within the open, emitting poisonous fumes. Different waste will get blown into the ocean, a few of which is washed ashore.

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Every year, 35 to 40 tons of single-use plastic waste wash up on Lamu’s attractive sandy seashores. The plastic waste ranges from beverage bottles to flip flops, probably the most prevalent type of plastic waste washed ashore in 2015. From this, Morison coined the title “Flipflopi” for his initiative.

Annoyed by the copious quantity of littered waste, Morison partnered with Ali Skanda, an area dhow builder. Dhows are conventional East African sailboats that transport items from East Africa to spice-trading areas like India and the Center East. They’re nonetheless used at present for transportation functions, particularly in additional conventional cities like Lamu. To pay homage to the native heritage and maximize recycled plastic waste, Skanda and Morison got down to assemble the world’s first dhow created from recycled single-use plastic. In doing so, they hoped to encourage others to plan progressive options that creatively make the most of discarded plastic, thus making a round economic system.

Two Flipflopi team members engaging with the local community

Constructing a dhow from plastic waste

The Flipflopi Undertaking started with “Flipflopi Ndogo” or “Little Flipflopi” in Swahili. To create this 10-meter lengthy vessel, seven tons of plastic had been collected from the seashores, then crushed and cleaned. Lastly, they had been melted and poured into molds to type the boat’s construction. The dhow additionally incorporates a sail made from 1,500 plastic bottles and a patterned hull created from 30,000 flip-flops.

Historically, dhows are created from hardwood, which is extraordinarily pricey to construct and keep. For almost all of the inhabitants in Lamu, these bills are unsustainable. By utilizing plastic waste as a uncooked materials to construct dhows, these prices could possibly be slashed. This is able to concurrently present boaters with sturdy vessels and have a constructive influence on the marine ecosystem.

Aerial view of the Flipflopi dhow with team members waving to the camera. The coastline can be seen in the background

Flipflopi’s initiatives in 2022

Flipflopi Ndogo was the prototype for “Flipflopi Kubwa” or the “Large Flipflopi” dhow, which Morison and Skanda plan on crusing all over the world. Presently, Flipflopi Kubwa is beneath building. The analysis and growth crew is working to enhance the vessel’s structural integrity. This dhow will likely be their greatest undertaking but. It’ll span 24 meters, weigh roughly 60 tons and will likely be coated in a patchwork of over 285,000 flip-flops.

Earlier this yr, the crew carried out a three-month analysis research inspecting plastic air pollution inside a 300-kilometer radius of the Lamu archipelago. The research discovered that even within the extra distant islands, the state of the mangrove forests and coastlines had been worse than anticipated. A lot of the macro-litter collected was plastic, with bottle caps and cap rings accounting for 20% of the waste. That is adopted by flip flops and PET bottles, which every accounted for 15% of the litter. These exceedingly excessive ranges of plastic influence biodiversity inside marine ecosystems and consequently hurt people depending on these sources.

After the baseline research, the crew undertook their third expedition on Flipflopi Ndogo, specializing in villages inside Lamu county. By means of this initiative, communities had been proven low-cost instruments to maximise how they upcycle single-use plastics. These low-tech instruments included bicycle-powered plastic shredders to DIY PET bottle-string cutters. Subsequently, by helping these low-income communities with the instruments they wanted to sustainably increase their economic system, Flipflopi additionally empowered them to create a more healthy residing atmosphere and shield Kenya’s biodiversity.

Group of women gathered around a women on a bicycle plastic-shredder

Rising Flipflopi

Within the close to future, the Flipflopi crew is working in the direction of establishing a Heritage Boat Constructing Coaching Middle. This studying hub will train boat builders to design and construct their very own recycled plastic-based dhows. They’ll construct on their vernacular information of boat-building and mix it with modern supplies and processes. In doing so, this can create a closed-loop system by recycling neighborhood waste. Moreover, this initiative will sort out key socio-economic and environmental challenges pertaining to the native context.

Moreover, the Flipflopi crew intends to arrange a Materials Restoration Middle for plastics. This would be the first of its form within the Lamu archipelago and can serve over 140,000 folks. It’ll work intently with native communities to recurrently gather single-use plastic waste and reduce extra plastics from polluting the plush marine ecosystems. The plentiful discarded plastics will likely be used as a low-cost uncooked materials used on the boat constructing heart and for different small-scale initiatives assembled by the neighborhood. This manner, a waste administration system will likely be established throughout the archipelago and permit the inhabitants to generate revenue, thus making a sustainable round economic system.

Neighborhood-based options to native environmental challenges are important to creating and sustaining round economies. Because the Flipflopi Undertaking demonstrates, these initiatives have constructive impacts on the atmosphere and a number of other socio-economic advantages for the Indigenous communities.

+ Flipflopi

Pictures through Umber/Flipflopi



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