By Sharon Atieno

In a bid to beat plastic pollution and save aquatic life, the world’s first recycled plastic sailing dhow, flip flopi has set sail on Lake Victoria, Africa’s largest freshwater lake. The voyage targets the East African community with an urgent message of ending the unnecessary single-use plastic menace that is threatening the region.

Two studies have proved evidence of microplastics in the waters of the lake-which supports 40 million East Africans through food supply and livelihoods. One study revealed the presence of microplastics in the guts of 1 in 5 fish from Lake Victoria while another recorded microplastics in surface waters in several sites from the Lake.

With the plastic waste problem being the linear ‘take-make-dispose’ model of consumption, as products get manufactured, bought, used briefly, and then thrown away; the three-week expedition from Kisumu, Kenya to several locations in Uganda and Tanzania will raise awareness and inspire communities to adopt circular-waste solutions to solve the problem.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the need to address the myriad environmental crises, which can only be done through regional and global consensus on key issues like single-use plastic, and climate change,” said Joyce Msuya, Deputy Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP). “Flipflopi is a great African example of the circular economy in action; we are proud to see it start this new journey around Lake Victoria, a shared resource that we must do all we can to protect.”

“Flipflopi was built to show the world that it is possible to make valuable materials out of waste plastic, and that single-use plastic really does not make sense,” said Ali Skanda, co-founder of the Flipflopi project and builder of the world’s first recycled plastic dhow.

“By sailing around the lake, we aim to inspire people to create their own waste-plastic innovations and adopt circular solutions that will build greener businesses, whilst also taking plastic out of the environment. Together with communities across the Lake Victoria region we hope to bring awareness and innovative solutions to beat pollution and support a green recovery in East Africa.”

Despite promoting green innovations, the Flip flopi and its partners including the United Nation’s Clean Seas Campaign will launch a petition calling for a regional ban on single-use plastics.

Though East African countries have made great efforts in addressing plastic pollution including putting up legislations to combat the discarded single-use plastic bags, policies and implementation differ across countries in the region.

Flipflopi initiative is supported and by various partners  including the national governments of Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania, UNEP, The UK’s Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO), the French Development Agency (AFD), The European Union, UN Live, as well as the private sector, including the law firm Anjarwalla and Khanna.