17 February 2019

Kenyan Conservationists Build World's First Plastic Waste Dhow

The world's first expedition in a boat made from plastic waste and flipflops is on a 14-day journey from Lamu, Kenya, to Stone town, Zanzibar. The Flipflopi-Clean Seas expedition aims to raise awareness of the dangers of single-use plastics.

According to UN Environment, which is backing the project, the world's first traditional dhow sailing boat made entirely from plastic trash collected from Kenya's beaches and towns, dubbed the FlipFlopi, is an impressive 9-metre sailing boat made from 10 tonnes of discarded plastic.

The boat, built by a team calling for a #Plasticrevolution, will make its 500km maiden voyage from Lamu in Kenya to Zanzibar in Tanzania. The aim is to change the mind-set of communities along the route about plastic waste. Alarmingly only 9% of the 9 billion tonnes of all the plastic the world has ever produced has been recycled.

The FlipFlopi was launched in late 2018 and is the creation of the FlipFlopi Project, an initiative founded in 2016 by Ben Morison for the purpose of utilising thousands of repurposed flip-flops and plastic collected on beach clean-ups along the Kenyan coast.

"The FlipFlopi Project has always been about encouraging change in a positive way, making people smile first and then sharing the very simple message that single-use plastics really don't make sense," said Morison.

"To create the FlipFlopi boat, we used only locally available resources and low-tech solutions, enabling our techniques and ideas to be copied without any barriers. So, we hope people around the globe are inspired by our beautiful multicoloured boat and will find their own ways to repurpose 'already used' plastics."

The project has partnered with nine other African countries and the UN Environment's Clean Seas campaign, which engages governments, the public and the private sector in the fight against marine plastic pollution.

"The FlipFlopi is living proof that we can live differently. It is a reminder of the urgent need for us to rethink the way we manufacture, use and manage single-use plastic," said Joyce Msuya, UN Environment's Acting Executive Director, as quoted on the website. "Kenya has demonstrated tremendous leadership in addressing the epidemic of single-use plastic by banning plastic bags. We are clearly moving in the right direction, but we need a drastic shift in consumption patterns and waste management practices across the world."

Every single element of the dhow was constructed by hand and clad in colorful sheets of recycled flip-flops.

"We are proud to have built the world's first sailing boat made from recycled plastic," said Ali Skanda, the lead boat builder. "The next challenge is to set sail and inspire people up and down Africa's coastline and beyond to look at plastic waste not as trash but as a resource that can be collected and used."

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