Innovation That Matters

The animal displays at the ChangeNow conference in Paris in January 2020 | Photo source Justin Sablich/Springwise

Ocean Sole Africa turns beach waste into art

Arts & Entertainment

Flip-flop debris collected from the shores of Kenya is being used to make large, colourful animal sculptures

Spotted: It is a well-accepted fact that beaches around the world are becoming more and more saturated with rubbish. Although increased awareness is making people more conscientious about picking up their own, or other people’s litter, the damage is already done in many places.

A company in Ponte Vedra has developed an innovative and creative way to tackle this beach pollution problem. Erin Smith, the mastermind of the project, was inspired by a trip to North Kenya, where she saw women using rubbish they found from the beach to make toys for the children in the tribe. Smith decided to found Ocean Sole Africa, a social enterprise company that uses flip-flops found on beaches to make art. 

As the main form of footwear in Kenya is flipflops, the material is easy to come by and makes the art varied and interesting, compiled as it is of manifold colours, details and sizes from the flipflops. When the flip-flop debris is collected, it is shipped to the headquarters in Palm Valley, where it is cleaned, glued and made into large, colourful animal sculptures. 

Ocean Sole Africa is a “B-Company” — benefit company — which aims to make a positive impact on society, workers, the community and the environment, with a focus on ocean cleanup. Not only is it a solution to the rubbish on the beaches, but the company also employs many Kenyan locals, in an area where unemployment is at 40 per cent.

Moreover, its journey from footwear to art is part of what it represents and draws awareness to the enormity of the litter problem and the consequences of our actions on the environment. 

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