Most folks smile when they think about their favorite day at the beach. Beaches are great to rejuvenate your mind and soul. What do you pack when you plan a visit to a beach? Sunscreen, an umbrella, beachwear, and of course the flip-flops! Every year, tons of flip flops wash ashore creating a huge pile of plastic. Reports suggest that at least eight million tons of plastic enter oceans every year. Astonishingly, flip flops make up to 25% of ocean plastic pollution.

They’re ubiquitous, and the modern-day synthetic rubber flip flop is not going away. They stay forever and Kenya bears witness to the threat as tons of plastic wash ashore along the East African coast. Obviously, Kenya isn’t an innocent party yet most of this plastic comes from China, India, and other Asian countries. While most of this debris is either recycled or reused, flip flop stays. To combat this problem, a troubled Kenyan came up with a brilliant initiative of Ocean Sole that upcycles the used footwear. It’s a Kenyan recycling company that upcycles non-recyclable wastes.

Ocean Sole has trained 40-50 artisans who create beautiful craft structures out of the used flip flops. Ocean Sole team can repurpose approximately 800,000 flip flops a year. The Nairobi-based workshop collects the old sandals and other rubber waste to ultimately craft them into new toys, curtains, and even necklaces. These items are sold locally and even too several aquariums and stores across 20 countries.

ocean sole

These toys remind us of the threat we are facing. The products were also shipped to Rome Fashion Week in 2008, the Swedish Cultural Museum in 2010, London Zoo in 2013, and to Pope Francis in 2015. The inspiration for Ocean Sole came in 1997 when a marine conservationist, Church realized the beauty of beaches turned into huge piles of waste plastic. Devastated on the sight, she witnessed several kids using the waste plastic and making their own little toys. Inspired by these kids’ makeshift creations, Church came up with the idea of upcycling ocean waste. She encouraged the local women to collect and process the thrown-away sandals and transform them into colorful artifacts for a profit.

The company provides direct employment to more than 70 people who recycle 400,000 sandals every year. They are coordinated by more than 10 suppliers who collect the raw material from beaches as well as Nairobi’s waterways. In the workshop, artisans further sort them by their quality and color, washed them, and then molded them into colorful sculptures. They mainly focus on animals; most of their products are sold at aquariums, zoos, and museums.

“My goal is to create change in the way people live and change in the way people understand the world and its connections,” says Church.

Why Marine Conservation is Important?

To want a better future, to survive and prosper we need to conserve our oceans. Whether it is our economy or autonomy we need healthy oceans for our survival. Marine pollution has been an ever-present problem since the introduction of industrialization. However, significant laws and regulations regarding marine conservation, at an international level to tackle the problem came only in the mid-twentieth century.

ocean sole

 During the United Nations Conventions on the Law of the Sea in the early 1950s, the various stakeholders come together to formulate laws about marine pollution. The majority portion of the marine pollution comes from the land that contributes to 80 percent of the marine pollution; air pollution also carries pesticides from farms and dust into the marine waters. Earth’s oceans make up over 90% of the habitable space on the planet, and researchers believe that 50-80% of all life is found underwater and we’ve barely seen any of it. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, only 5% of the ocean has been explored, potentially leaving thousands, if not millions, of species undiscovered. So you see, Oceans are the largest ecosystem on Earth and harbor tremendous biodiversity. Oceans regulate temperature thus contribute to bringing rain which is one of the major sources of drinking water, thus oceans serve as the lifeblood for us- if they go, we go too.

And lastly, we should be concern about marine conservation because we all can make a difference. Make responsible decisions about the action you take like the tour company you use or invest in. Avoid purchasing souvenirs that exploit marine wildlife, take care of the beach you enjoy or tan on. Stop using plastic products, and only purchase seafood that is certified as sustainable. Educate yourself, because learning about ocean conservation will help you make choices that protect our planet’s most important resource.

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