We met Philippe, the Flip-Flop Elephant, on a recent town trip. There he was waiting patiently for us to visit him at his new home in Newcastle’s Great North Museum. He’d travelled a very long way – all the way from Kenya, in fact.
Philippe isn’t called “the Flip-Flop Elephant” because he’s a floppy kind of animal. He’s called “the Flip-Flop Elephant” because he is actually made from old flip-flops – those plastic sandals often worn on sunny beaches.
The company who created Philippe is called Ocean Sole. They are a Kenyan company who specialise in recycling old flip-flops that are washed up on Kenya’s Indian Ocean beaches and waterways. The flip-flops are cleaned, cut up and stuck together into blocks and are then carved into animals, jewellery and other useful objects.
I think this is a fabulous example of upcycling. Through their handcrafted creations Ocean Sole are seeking to teach the world about marine pollution. Ocean Sole are recycling man-made rubbish that is being retrieved from one of the world’s most precious ecosystems, the sea. From time to time we see news stories about plastic being one of the major ocean pollutants, but I never envisaged flip-flops being such a big polluter.
Ocean Sole describe thousands of flip-flops being washed up every year. This huge amount of flip-flops has a serious impact on the wildlife along the Kenyan coast. The company aims to recycle 400,000 flip-flops every year! That is a lot of flip-flops!
Not only are Ocean Sole playing their part in cleaning Kenya’s beaches, the business also provides much-needed jobs for the local community. It is wonderful to learn about a company so passionate about one of our most important ecosystems and community-orientated too.
I was inspired!
J Peggy Taylor