*This article was written by Catherine Benson Wahlen and originally appeared on the IISD SDG Knowledge Hub.
The ‘Flipflopi’ Project has produced the world’s first traditional dhow boat built entirely of ten tonnes of plastic trash collected from Kenya’s beaches and towns. The boat aims to raise awareness on marine plastic pollution and highlight the impact of plastic on marine ecosystems.
The Flipflopi Project created the dhow to highlight the potential for plastic waste to be reused. The project aims to raise awareness on how much plastic ends up in the ocean and how plastic pollution affects us all, share the value of repurposing plastic waste and bring an end to single-use plastic, in line with SDG 9 (industry, innovation and infrastructure), SDG 12 (responsible consumption and production), SDG 14 (life below water) and SDG 15 (life on land). Flipflopi co-founder, Ben Morison, explained that the project encourages change in a positive way, first “making people smile” and then “sharing the very simple message that single-use plastics really don’t make sense.” He said Flipflopi created the boat using locally available resources and low-tech solutions, underscoring the potential for its ideas and techniques to be easily emulated. Morrison hoped people around the world would be “inspired by our beautiful multicolored boat and find their own ways to repurpose ‘already-used’ plastics.”
“The Flopflopi project seeks to share the very simple message that single-use plastics really don’t make sense.”
According to the UN Environment Programme (UNEP, or UN Environment), which is partnering with the project, only 9 percent of the 9 billion tonnes of plastic the world has produced has ever been recycled. The majority of plastics are thrown away after a single use, resulting in billions of tonnes of plastic that ends up in landfills and in the environment. This marine debris threatens marine ecosystem viability, economic development and food security. UNEP’s Clean Seas Campaign engages governments, the public and private sector in the fight against marine pollution. Kenya is one of nine African countries engaged in the Campaign.
On 24 January, the nine meter sailing boat will sail from Lamu, Kenya, to Zanzibar, Tanzania, stopping at six communities along the route to raise awareness about plastic waste and inspire communities to repurpose their own plastic waste. The expedition will conclude on 7 February, at the Busara Music Festival in Zanzibar, engaging festival participants in the fight against marine plastic pollution through music and culture.
Following its East African voyage, the Flipflopi dhow will travel to the fourth session of the UN Environment Assembly (UNEA-4), where it will form a center exhibit for the conference, which is focusing on ‘Innovative Solutions for Environmental Challenges and Sustainable Consumption and Production.’ [UNEP Press Release] [Flipflopi Press Release] [Flipflopi Website] [UNEP Clean Seas Campaign]