FlipFlopi plastic waste dhow to set sail on Africa’s coast

By Rajive Singh

To raise awareness about single-use plastic

DUBAI  20 January 2019: A traditional dhow sailing boat made entirely from plastic trash collected from Kenya’s beaches and towns will make its maiden voyage from Lamu in Kenya to Zanzibar in Tanzania – a 500-kilometre expedition stopping at communities along the way to change mindsets about plastic waste.

The FlipFlopi is a first-of-its-kind, a 9-metre sailing boat made from 10 tonnes of discarded plastic. It has been built by a team calling for a #PlasticRevolution to stem the flow of up to 12 million tons of plastic waste dumped into the world’s oceans each year and to highlight the potential for plastic waste to be re-used.

The dhow was launched in late 2018 in Lamu and has now partnered with UN Environment’s Clean Seas campaign, which engages governments, the public and the private sector in the fight against marine plastic pollution. Nine African countries have already signed onto the campaign, promising to take action to tackle marine pollution.

The Flipflopi – Clean Seas Expedition
• World first expedition in boat made from plastic waste and flipflops
• 500 km journey from Lamu, Kenya to Zanzibar, Tanzania
• 6 stops along the African coastline to inspire communities on how to re-purpose their own plastic waste, and promote UN Environment Clean Seas Campaign
• Only 9% of the 9 billion tonnes of plastic the world has ever produced has been recycled
• Kenya introduced worlds toughest a plastic bag ban in August 2017
• Boat will be exhibited at the UN Environment Assembly in Nairobi in March 2019

“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,” Joyce Msuya, UN Environment’s Acting Executive Director said. “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.”

Nearly 2 years after Kenya introduced the worlds toughest laws on single-use plastic bags, the Flipflopi Project is playing a vital role in engaging the public at large in thinking about plastic differently. The Project was founded by Ben Morison in 2016 after seeing the shocking quantities of plastic on Kenya’s beaches where he spend much of his childhood.

“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 Ben Morison, Flipflopi Project Founder. 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 find their own ways to repurpose ‘already-used’ plastics.”

The Flipflopi project team has had to pioneer new techniques to craft the various components of the boat. The plastic waste was melted, shaped and carved by the team of traditional dhow boat builders exactly as they would do with wood. Every single element of the boat has been constructed by hand and the whole boat has been clad in colourful sheets of recycled flipflops. These flipflops have been collected on beach cleanups on Lamu’s beaches, where they are among the most prolific items found.

“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.”

The expedition will start in Lamu on January 24. The boat is expected to arrive in Stone Town in Zanzibar on February 7, where the Flipflopi and Cleanseas teams will meet up with Conservation Music at the Busara Music Festival, engaging festival goers in the fight against marine plastic pollution through music and culture.

Following the completion of the Clean Seas expedition – the Flipflopi boat will be exhibited in at the upcoming UN Environment Assembly, in Nairobi Kenya (11th to 15th March), which gathers more than 150 ministers of environment. The assembly is the world’s highest-level decision-making body on the environment, and in 2019 has the theme: “Innovative solutions for environmental challenges and sustainable consumption and production”.

Dubai Gazette