Reaping the Flip Flop Harvest on Kenya's Polluted Coast

Plastic flip flop sandals discarded in the oceans off the coast of Asia have formed a new kind of fauna on the coast of Northern Kenya. So many sandals wash ashore that over the past decade locals have begun harvesting them, turning them into colorful toys, and selling them for more money than they could make from fishing, the area's former main industry. After a 2003 documentary, Flip Flotsam, called attention to Kenya's flip flop harvests, a small nonprofit called UniqEco began methodically helping locals ply their craft via the Flip Flop Recycling Project.

According to TreeHugger:

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.

Since so much of our cultural debris is non-biodegradable, we're likely to see efforts like this proliferating. Over the next decade it may become more and more common to see plastic shoes drifting in on the tides than seaweed. Image courtesy of UniqEco.

Flipping Kenya's Coastal Flotsam [TreeHugger]