Ocean Sole: Kenyan company turns flip-flop sandals into art
Nairobi, Kenya – Flip flops are the most popular type of footwear in developing countries like Kenya. Over 3 billion are produced annually, they are considered comfortable, easy to wear and inexpensive.
Unfortunately, most of them are also harmful to the environment, marine life in particular are greatly affected by the flip flop sandals making their way to the body of water.
Most flip-flop sandals are made from petroleum-based synthetic materials and have an average lifespan of just two years.
Despite their negative environmental impact, a Kenyan start-up has discovered a way to milk flip-flop sandals for cash.
Ocean Sole takes these flip flops and uses them to create hippos, giraffes, and whales.
Founded by Julie Church, a marine conservationist working in the coastal city of Mombasa in 1998. To date, the company has created 90 direct jobs and 1,000 indirect jobs for Kenyans.
According to Joe Mwakiremba, Head of Sales, Ocean Sole, “We recycle about 4.7 tons of flip-flop sandals a year. Our focus is on positively creating a social enterprise aiming to impact over 1,000 Kenyans through flip flop collection and direct employment. We provide steady income to almost 100 low-income Kenyans in our company. Our goal is to recycle a million flip-flops a year, recycle over a tonne of Styrofoam a month, and save over five hundred trees a year – by using flip-flops instead of wood. We contribute over 10-15% of our earnings to beach clean-ups, professional and educational programs, and conservation efforts.”
Joe points out that the company gets the flip-flops from local people, wash them in detergent and let them dry for a few hours.
Then artisans collect them, where they are shaped, glued, carved and sanded into collectible works of art.
Some jobs can even take up to 3 months. Unused flip-flop waste is shredded and recycled into mattresses.
Ocean Sole is constantly growing and strives to keep litter off Kenya‘s beaches and waters. This year alone, the organization has recycled more than 750,000 sandals and collected more than 47,000 kilos (over 103,600 pounds) of waste.