Ocean Sole

The flip-flop recycling company

Still having the huge amount of waste in mind which is being washed-up along Kenya‘s coast everyday, I wanted to visit another site that deals with ocean plastic.

Ocean Sole was founded by environmental scientist Julie Church, who could already see the growing problem of plastic waste in the ocean when she was working in the Kiunga Marine Reserve in northern Kenya in the late 1990s, and its devastating impact on marine life.

Starting with small clean-ups within the local communities, Ocean Sole has grown into an internationally recognised eco-enterprise since, receiving commissions and orders from all over the world, including life size masterpieces put on display to create awareness of our human footprint.

The raw materials that they work with are still collected on Kenya’s beaches and waterways – predominantly rubber flip-flops, which break down very slowly and linger in the environment as tiny plastic pellets even after the flip-flops themselves have disintegrated.

At the Ocean Sole factory in Nairobi, the flip-flops are carefully washed, dried and sorted by colour and size, then transformed by a creative team of artisans into colourful handmade sculptures.They aim to recycle 400,000 flip-flops a year and keep raising awareness globally on the importance of our marine habitats. Locally, they are already working together with the WMA and other initiatives to keep cleaning up Kenya’s coastlines.

Project Manager Nancy Omondi explained that they are receiving so much raw material that they are now planning to extend their product range beyond sculptures and artworks to include more everyday objects, like mattresses.

So at the moment they‘re looking into improved solutions/machinery to procees the flip-flops - might a shredder be an appropriate solution here as well? They are very interested in having me as a research person for this subject, so I’ll keep an eye on it and see what I can come up with.

Task to myself: Find out if there is an existing rubber shredder or if another one (plastic shredder) could work or be adjusted for rubber as well?


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