By Aziza Atieno

 Creators of the Flipflopi, the world’s first sailing dhow made entirely from discarded plastic, are partnering with members of the international scientific community to embark on an excursion to map the impact of marine litter in the Lamu archipelago of the Western Indian Ocean.

The project will begin by assessing and collecting enough data on around 300 kilometers of Kenyan coastline, observing the extent and impact of marine litter.

This is a move that is aimed at supporting local communities to find solutions to manage marine litter by recycling and making new products from this waste, including plastic boat industry.

According to a 2021 United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) report, From Pollution to Solution, of the 400 million tonnes of plastic produced annually, approximately 11 million tonnes flow into aquatic ecosystems every year. Without action, this is projected to nearly triple by 2040, equating to some 50 kilograms of plastic per meter of coastline worldwide.

These plastic debris when ingested by marine life can cause suffocation and entanglement to marine species and wildlife such as birds can die of starvation when they mistake plastic wastes for prey. In humans, some of the chemicals used in production of plastics can interfere with the body’s system resulting in disorders. Plastic wastes also damage the aesthetic value of tourist destinations and contribute to climate change.

“Without any proper waste management systems on the archipelago, our community has been forced to take our own action on plastic pollution. By better understanding the problematic plastics, we will be able to contribute to the action plan for the development of a sustainable waste management system in Lamu that will bring new jobs whilst cleaning the environment,” said Ali Skanda, co-founder of The Flipflopi Project in a statement.

As part of UNEP Clean Seas Project, the research will be used to record common areas of pollution and to understand the common types of plastic waste amassing on the coastline, their sources and how they negatively impact the Lamu archipelago’s marine system.  The findings of the latest Flipflopi expedition may be used to inform the development of sustainable solutions and locally-relevant waste management solutions, the report adds.

The Flipflopi expedition supports the UN Decade on Ocean Science for Sustainability and strengthens the goals of UNEP’s global Clean Seas Campaign which aims at rallying the power of the crowd in the fight against marine litter and plastic pollution. The expedition also coincides with the commemoration of 50 years of UNEP.