Kenya


Turning pollution into art at Ocean Sole

 

Every year thousands of thongs (also known as flip flops) are washed up on the beaches of Kenya and eastern Africa. This unsightly rubbish is swallowed by fish, turtles and other animals causing them to suffocate on the rubber.

The beaches and waterways of Kenya get an unfair amount of rubbish – the currents of the region dump a disproportionate amount on their shores. And unlike a lot of the rubbish which sinks or floats below the surface, thongs float along the top, accumulating in tens of thousands.

Ocean Sole, paying local people to clean their beaches

Since 2005, Ocean Sole have provided employment to over 150 low income Kenyans. Among their employees are the beach cleaners who wander the beaches and waterways, collecting thongs to sell to Ocean Sole. Once received, the thongs are thoroughly cleaned with an environmentally friendly detergent and sorted into colours, ready for the creative process to begin.

Getting creative with recycled thongs

The clean thongs are glued together into blocks, then sculptors hand-carve these blocks into the animals we know and recognise. The sculptures are then sanded down and quality checked before being sold to environmentally aware consumers, just like you.

Carving Ocean Sole animals

Ocean Sole, a business on a mission

Ocean Sole’s mission is to protect and preserve their environment. Though organisations like A Little Good, they’re able to tell their story and educate people about the plight of their environment. Their staff work under fair trade conditions, they’re paid a decent income, work in safe conditions and even get a free lunch! And then, knowing that there’s always more to be done, Ocean Sole donate 10% of their profits to ocean conservation.

 

“I was not able to afford shoes and had to borrow some to come to Nairobi to find work. I have been working here for 6 years…I can now afford to send my two children to secondary school and feed and clothe them well. I have set up a small farm upcountry with two cows and I sell the milk to my neighbours to make extra money and it is an investment for my children. The company supports me when I am sick and they pay my doctor’s bills. I say thank you.” -Eric Mwandola, Artisan
Shop for our recycled Kenyan sculptures here.