By Sharon Atieno

flip flopi dhow

According to the United Nations (UN) by 2050, there could be more plastic than fish in the ocean -measuring by weight-if care is not taken to address the plastic waste menace. Currently, it is estimated that 8 million tonnes of plastic waste enter into the ocean annually.

In a bid to clean the seas and rid the oceans of plastic pollution, Kenya launched a 9-metre sailing dhow that is made of 30,000 discarded flip-flops and 10 tonnes of recycled plastic from the coast. The dhow is to embark on a 500 km journey from Lamu Island in Kenya to Zanzibar in Tanzania raising awareness on the effects of plastics on oceans and its harmful effects on marine and human life as well as highlight the potential of re-using plastic waste. This initiative by a group of around 30 people shows how innovation can be used to address environmental challenges.

In a statement, Joyce Msuya, UN Environment acting executive director notes that Flipflopi is a reminder of the urgent need for us to rethink the way we manufacture, use and manage single-use plastic. “We are clearly moving in the right direction but we need a drastic shift in consumption patterns and waste management practices across the world,” she adds.

The UN Environment Outlook 2018 points out that the plastic problem is one of design with manufacturing, distribution, consumption and trade systems for plastics requiring change. It recommends that governments must hold manufacturers to account for the life cycle of their products.

Data from the Deep-sea Debris Database revealed that a third of debris found was macro-plastic, 89 percent being single-use products. In areas deeper than 6000 m over half of debris was plastic- majority being single-use. The data also reveals that plastic has reached the world’s deepest ocean trench at 10, 898m below the surface.

With over 12 million people in Africa engaged in fisheries their livelihood is directly affected by marine pollution. An overwhelming majority also depend on fish for food or source of protein. The debris spells doom not only for marine life but also for humans with an eminent threat of food insecurity looming.

The UN Environment’s campaign dubbed clean seas, which aims to engage governments, the public and private sector in the fight against marine plastic pollution has also partnered with the flipflopi project team. Nine African nations have already signed onto the campaign, pledging to take action to deal with marine pollution.

The Flipflopi expedition comes barely a month before the next Un Environment Assembly in Nairobi. In preparation of the event, the UN Environment is championing for the urgent need for sustainable consumption and production of innovative solutions for environmental challenges through its #solvedifferent campaign, urging people to rethink the decisions they make daily.