The Flipflopi: Boat made from recycled plastic and flip-flops sets sail on awareness-raising mission

The Flipflopi – a Kenyan community-built boat constructed from recycled marine plastic and flip-flops – has set sail on its first overseas mission to raise awareness about marine plastic pollution.

Departing from Lamu on the Kenyan coast on 24 January, the FlipFlopi will sail south along the coasts of Kenya stopping in Watamu, Kilifi, Mombasa and Diani, before crossing into northern Tanzania with planned stops on Pemba Island, and onwards into Stone Town, Zanzibar. The voyage will take approximately 12-14 days.

The project calls for a plastic revolution and raises awareness of the dangers of single-use plastic, of which 12 million tonnes is dumped at sea every year rather than repurposed or recycled.

The Flipflopi team will be visiting schools, communities and government officials along the way sharing solutions and changing mindsets.

The Flipflopi is the world’s first dhow, traditional sailing boat, to be made entirely out of discarded plastic.

Waste plastics, mainly from Lamu’s beaches, were used to construct the entire boat. The keel, ribs and structural elements are all made from recycled plastic including bottles and bags, whilst the hull and decking is covered completely by re-purposed flip-flops. Despite the unusual materials, the vessel was constructed by local craftsmen in Lamu who use traditional methods to melt, shape and carve the plastic exactly as they would with wood.

Along the journey to Zanzibar, the Flipflopi team will be organising beach clean-ups with local partners, plus visiting a number of marine conservation and plastic recycling initiatives.

Ultimately the Flipflopi project aims to inspire more innovative ways to repurpose ‘already-used’ plastic and calls for viewers to support the on-going Flipflopi project.

Speaking about the Flipflopi’s first overseas expedition, the Flipflopi team said: “This was never really about the boat – we simply want to demonstrate that single use plastic doesn’t make sense. We hope people around the world are inspired to find their own ways to repurpose ‘already-used’ plastic.”

A second expedition by the Flipflopi is scheduled for 2021 in which a crew will sail from Kenya to Cape Town. The voyage is expected to take 3-4 months.

The Flipflopi will also be putting in an appearance at the United Nations Environment Assembly in Nairobi in March, where it will form a centre exhibit for the conference. For the journey, the special dhow will be be transported on the back of a lorry inland from Mombasa to Nairobi.

The Flipflopi

Rosa Medea is Life & Soul Magazine’s Chief. I write about sustainable lifestyle and green living for publications, and I offer content services to planet-friendly businesses. Find out more at or find me on Twitter: @rosamedea

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