Kenyan boat made from recycled plastic to make voyage to Zanzibar

By Joseph Ng’ang’a

Kenya News Agency


A traditional dhow made entirely from plastic trash collected from Kenya’s beaches and townsin January made its maiden voyage to Zanzibar from Lamu in Kenya.

The 500-kilometre expedition was punctuated with stopsin towns and villagesalong the coast to create awareness about plastic waste.

The FlipFlopi is a first-of-its-kind, nine-metre sailing boat made from 10 tonnes of discarded plastic.

It was built by a team calling for a Plastic Revolution as part of the global campaign to stem the flow of up to 12 million tonnes of plastic waste dumped into the world’s oceans each year and to highlight the potential forplastic waste to be re-used.

The dhow was launched in late 2018 in Lamu and the builders are now partnering with the UN Environment’s Clean Seas campaign that is engaging governments, the public and the private sector in the fight against marine plastic pollution.

Nine African countries have already signed up to the campaign, promising to take action to tackle marine 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,” Joyce Msuya, the UNEnvironment’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,” she added.

Flipflopi board member, Prof Judi Wakhungu,observed: “The Flipflopi Project is playing a vital role in engaging the public at large in thinking about plastics differently. They have a colourful and innovative way of talking about the issue – and their message is really hitting home, reaching parts of the population that other initiatives seldom do.”

Only nine per cent of the nine billion tonnes of plastic the world has ever produced has been recycled.

The overwhelming majority of plastics – including plastic drinking bottles, plastic bottle caps, food wrappers, plastic grocery bags, plastic lids, straws and stirrers and foam takeaway containers – are designed to be thrown away after a single use, ultimately ending up in landfills and the environment.

In the recently published Legal Limits on Single-Use Plastics and Microplastics: A Global Review of National Laws and Regulations, UN Environment found that 127 out of 192 countries reviewed (two-thirds) have adopted some form of legislation to regulate plastic bags and 27 countries have enacted legislation banning either specific products including plates, cups, straws, packaging materials like polystyrene or production levels.

Nearly two years after Kenya enacted the world’s toughest laws on single-use plastic bags, the Flipflopi Project is playing a vital role in engaging the public to think about plastic differently.

The project was founded in 2016 to create awareness on the impact of plastics on marine ecosystems, how this affects us and most importantly what we can do about it.

FlipFlopi Project co-founderBen Morison was inspired to create a visually engaging plastic revolution after witnessing the shocking quantities of plastic waste on Kenya’s beaches, where he spent much of his childhood.

“The Flipflopi Project has always been about encouraging positive change, making people smile first and then sharing the very simple message that single-use plastics really don’t make sense,” said Ben 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. We hope people around the globe are inspired by our beautiful multi-coloured boat and find their own ways to re-purpose ‘already-used’ plastics,” he explained.

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.

The flipflops were collected during clean-ups on Lamu’s beaches, where they are among the most common 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 re-used,” said Skanda.

The expedition started in Lamu on January 24, culminating in Stone Town in Zanzibar on February 7. Flipflopi and Cleanse teams would meet up with Conservation Music at the Busara Music Festival to engage festival goers in the fight against marine plastic pollution through music and culture.

In Africa, marine debris represents a potential threat to food security, economic development and the viability of the marine ecosystems. With over 12 million people on the continent engaged in fisheries, their livelihood is directly affected by marine pollution and the proportion of protein intake from fish is high across Africa.

During the Blue Economy Conference, hosted by Kenya last month, governments committed to protect oceans, seas, lakes and rivers.The FlipFlopi-Clean Seas Expedition took place a month before the next UN Environment Assembly attended by more than 150 ministers of environment in Nairobi.

The assembly is the world’s highest-level decision-making body on the environment.

In the lead up to the event, UN Environment is zeroing in on the urgent need for sustainable consumption and production and innovative solutions to environmental challenges through its #solvedifferentcampaign.


Caption: IMG_1034: The world’s first Kenyan made boat from recycled plastic which is set to make a voyage from Lamu Island in Kenya to Zanzibar Island in Tanzania to raise awareness on the level of plastic waste going into the oceans.



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