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While experts are still debating over how to clean up the increasing plastic debris in our oceans, one woman is doing something about it - Recycling flip flops and other used sandals that wash up along the shores of Kenya and turning them into colorful works of art.
Julie Church, a marine scientist who worked for the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) in Kenya had often observed the turtles that hatched on the beach, struggle their way through the myriad amounts of debris that washed ashore from as far away as Indonesia. Among them was an inordinate number of colorful flip flops and sandals that users had carelessly discarded.
One day, while walking along the coast she noticed some enterprising young kids transforming the washed up flip flops into toy boats and was suddenly hit with an inspiration - What if she could figure out how to transform some of this junk into beautiful objects that everyone would want to own? She managed to convince the WWF to give her the first order for 15,000 key rings and in 2000, Flip Flop Recycling Company (now called Ocean Sole Sandal Recycling Company) was born.
The trash to treasure journey begins at the coast with women collecting used flip flops and old sandals that wash ashore on a regular basis. They carefully clean them and sell them to Julie's organization where her 40 employees begin the magical task of transforming them into all kinds of fun objects ranging from toys to jewelry, by first gluing together a bright collage of colors, then shaping them into the desired toy or animal and finally, sanding and re-washing them. Today, the company makes 100 different products, and while they are largely sold to zoos and aquariums, one piece of recycled jewelry was recently even worn on a Paris runway.
And if you think Julie is doing this amazing project to make money, think again. Though the company has been around since 2000, it draws in only about $150,000 USD annually and last year, even suffered a slight loss. While this will probably change now that the company has a new investor and is trying to aggressively market its wares all over the world, Julie is not concerned.
That's because she not only helps recycle 10,000 kilos (22,000 lbs) of old flip-flops annually, but also, provides a steady income to 40 families not to mention a great sense of achievement to the employees that create these amazing products - That kind of success as they say is . . Priceless!
Resources Oceansolesandal.com, VOAnews.com