I was surprised when I first started these cleanups to find that flip flops have their own category on both the Marine Debris Tracker and Clean Swell apps. It’s not uncommon for us to find two or three per cleanup, but that didn’t really seem like enough to warrant their own category. Apparently though, flip flops are a much larger problem in the rest of the world. I gave mine up when I moved here, opting for a pair of sandals with better traction and support so I wouldn’t face plant on a rainy sidewalk, but they are still among the most popular, and cheap form of footwear world wide, and we are starting to see signs of this in our oceans.
Along the Kenya coastline, an estimated 90 tons of flip flops are removed a year. Most of these seem to be coming from Asia, the currents spreading them out along the East coast of Africa. This litter is causing problems for the local environment and economy. It damages tourism, clogs water ways which threatens human health, and is killing fish, turtle and other marine life.
Ocean Sole, a group of artisans in Nairobi are using these discarded shoes to make beautiful rubber sculptures, which is a great way to spread stewardship, but ultimately we are going to need to rethink the things we put on our feet, and especially the ones that are so easily lost to sea.
It’s not often that CNN (or any of the major news outlets for that matter) report on marine debris. I was very happy to see this come across my desk.
Read the CNN report here