Flipping Kenya's Coastal Flotsam


What ever happened to that flip flop you lost while walking on a beach pounded by heavy waves? It might have ended up on the coast of Kenya, harming sea life and sullying pristine beaches. Fortunately, members of a handful of Kenyan coastal communities are rescuing the rubbery trash and transforming it into colorful, crafty items.

In 1997, villagers from northern Kenya began collecting washed up flipflop rubbish from as far away as Japan, Indonesia, and Malaysia to make toys, fishing buoys and cushion stuffing. At the same time, Julie Church, a Kenyan, was leading a marine conservation and development project at the Kiunga Marine National Reserve for the World Wide Fund for Nature. According to Church, the flip flop flotsam was not only a hygienic problem for the people, but was also preventing female turtles from laying their eggs on the beach and the freshly hatched turtles from returning to the ocean.

In 2003, the initiative was highlighted in the documentary "Flip Flotsam" by Journeyman Pictures. And in 2005, Church helped to launch UniquEco and The Flip Flop Recycling Project to ramp up production for the recycled products made from flip flops and offer more coastal community members opportunities to improve their livelihoods.

Today, the workers behind the Flip Flop Recycling Project run the gamut from beachcombers to bead-makers and artisans and sculptors and are producing jewelry, sculptures, toys, household products and accessories. Part of the project's mission remains social -- to create jobs for people with limited opportunities. Recently, the project expanded to begin reusing the garbage of low-income communities in Nairobi such as Kibera, Musongari and Ongata Ongai. :: UniquEco

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