Ocean Action Hub

26 Apr 2017 - Flip-flops are one of the most common types of pollution found in oceans around the world, and one company in Kenya is raising awareness by recycling them into colorful pieces of art.

Ocean pollution continues to endanger marine populations worldwide, and the amount of plastic and trash entering the water has reached staggering levels. Some estimates have suggested that by 2050 there will be more plastic than fish in the oceans.

Ocean Sole, a social enterprise located in Nairobi, Kenya, has been cleaning up discarded flip-flops that wash ashore from the Indian Ocean for nearly two decades.

In an effort to bring attention to this global issue, the company said it aims to recycle 400,000 flip-flops per year by salvaging the materials and producing vibrant works of art. As for what type of artwork can be made, they stress that there is no limit to their creativity.

“Making products out of flip-flops is endless,” said Erin Smith, chief sole mate at Ocean Sole. “If you can imagine it, you can make it.”

The creative team at Ocean Sole designs products ranging from key rings and bracelets to furniture and sculptures. Much of their wall art showcases animals such as lions, bison, pandas, gorillas and endangered species around the world.

Their most notable designs are called “grand masterpieces,” which are sculptures that can reach lifelike proportions. One example is a giraffe sculpture that stood 18 feet in height. Ocean Sole has even received requests to make large-size interactive chess pieces for boutique hotels.

Five percent of the company’s profits from recycled flip-flop products and 10 percent of its production costs are spread back into the Ocean Sole Foundation, which works with conservationists, industries, scientists and other non-profits organizations to promote marine conservation. 

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Kevin Byrne