The world is obliterated by many man-made products, momentarily useful and when discarded, they leave a nasty scar on the planet. It is often the poorest parts of the world that suffer the worst environmental degradation. The flip-flop is the most basic footwear for so many in the world, and every day thousands of these non-degradable pieces wash up on beaches around the globe, blighting the coastlines and the lives of local coastal people and the marine ecology.
The flip-flop initiative is an example of an environmental clean up which links waste back to the consumer world which generated it in the first place whilst providing opportunities to the communities living in the remote and impacted areas of the world. On the coast of Eastern Africa this initiative encourage local inhabitants to collect the washed up rubbish that arrives from as far a field as Japan, Indonesia, Malaysia and China. The villagers turn this waste into saleable products such as key rings, belts, earrings and bags. It is hard to believe that a simple flip flop can be transformed from environmentally damaging waste into eye-catching glamour using only human creativity.
Once the flip-flops have been collected from the beaches, they are processed in different ways:
- The women hand punch beads out of the flip flops, which are are made into products by a group that works with top designers to create items of fashion and beauty for the tourist and export markets.
- The young coastal men stick the flip-flops together and carve them into a variety of wonderful sculptures and toys such as fish, whales, aero planes, cars, boats, animals, insects and so many more.
- To ensure no remnants are left to float in the ocean, the remaining pieces of the carved and punched shoes are then ground down to fill cushions of different shapes and sizes for the floor, pool or sofas.