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  • The boat was made by with 10,000 tonnes of plastic and 30,000 flip flops.

    The boat was made by with 10,000 tonnes of plastic and 30,000 flip flops. | Photo: UN Environment

Published 12 February 2019

The ship, Flipflopi, sailed along East Africa’s coast to raise awareness of the threat plastics pose to the oceans.

The majestic sailboat, Flipflopi, weighs anchor in Mtwapa beach, becoming the world’s first traditional “dhow” made completely of recycled plastic and flip flops to finish a 500 km journey.

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Made with 10,000 tonnes of plastic and 30,000 flip-flops, the 9-metre-long dhow arrived at the Tanzanian island of Zanzibar after sailing south along East Africa’s coast to raise awareness of the threat plastics pose to the oceans, chief boat-builder and captain Ali Skanda said.

Flipflopi began its journey from Lamu island in Kenya on Jan.23, and made a total of six stops, encouraging locals, schools, and officials to participate in beach clean-ups and to hold events highlighting the effect of plastic pollution on the seas.

Beaches and marine ecosystems have been badly affected by plastics, adding it was time to change local people’s mindset on how they handle and dispose of waste, Skanda said.

The motivation for boat-builder and fisherman Hassan Mohammed, 56, was seeing how much has changed in recent decades.

Until 20 years ago, the shore at Mtwapa was free of pollution, he said. But tourism has meant increased use of plastic carrier bags and bottles, which has harmed the ocean.

“When I started fishing, the only people around were fishermen and fisherwomen - and we used woven baskets and no plastics,” he said.

“Nowadays, many people have started local businesses, like hotels along the shores, and contributed to a huge mess - as you can see, the place is littered with plastic bottles,” Mohammed said.

Researchers estimate the world has produced more than 8.3 billion tonnes of plastic since the early 1950s, according to UN Environment.

The FlipFlopi’s expedition came ahead of the United Nations Environment Assembly in March, where more than 190 nations will discuss innovative solutions to make production and consumption greener, and other critical environmental challenges.

The boat will be on show in Nairobi during the gathering.

Skanda told Reuters, “We are still fundraising to build a bigger boat so that we (can) sail to Cape Town in South Africa and to (all of) Africa.”

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