We have been posting a lot of news on the hazards of plastic waste in our oceans, but I bet you have not considered this everyday item that is posing a huge plastic pollution problem. Flip flops, like yours are ubiquitous around the world and millions are discarded every day.
“Over three billion people can only afford that type of shoe,” says Erin Smith of Ocean Sole. “They hang on to them, they fix them, they duct tape them, mend them and then usually discard them.” Smith adds that the average lifespan of a flip flop is two years. This very inexpensive footware is popular throughout Asia and the developing world, especially in tropical zones. (photo – CNN)
Plastic Not Pristine
Most of us think of beaches along the east African coast as little visited and pristine, however Smith points out that is not so. “We are actually receivers of pretty much the rest of the emerging world’s marine pollution.” And a lot of the pollution that is carried to the beaches of East Africa are discarded flip flops — approximately 90 tons a year, states Ocean Sole, a conservation group and recycling collective.
Kenya is part of the problem also, one Kenyan company produces 100,000 pairs a day and because of inadequate waste removal, many of those are destined for the ocean. The problem of flip flops littering beaches is not just aesthetic, but a health hazard to human and marine life. Read more on CNN World. Plus see our posts on how micro-plastics end up in our sea food: If You Love Seafood – You Might Not Want To Read This
Did you know that flip flops are frequently seen bobbing around in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, that enormous, Texas sized, swirling gyro of ocean waste in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.
Flip Flops Are Forever
The world loves flip flops, they are comfortable, cheap and don’t fall apart in the weather. However, that’s also a big part of the problem, when they are discarded they don’t go away. They stay forever in landfills or make their way into the ocean. Many of the older and cheaper ones are made of non-recyclable plastics, that contain polyvinyl chloride (PVC) and phthalates, cadmium and lead, everything together makes these sandals carcinogenic to humans and toxic to animals and plants. So, a lot of these plastic compounds cannot be incinerated because of health concerns. But they can still be recycled. (photo – Kenya, turning flip flops into toys, ahmadalikarim.wordpress.com)
Don’t Turn Flip Flops Into Flotsam
There are solutions available, UniqueEco is a foundation that takes used sandals and recycles them into toys. UniquEco started on an island off the Kenyan coast, where locals began collecting the flip flops washed up on their beaches. About 170,000 or 80 tons of flip flops so far. A win-win, the beaches got rid of flip flop flotsam and local artisans are provided a living.(photo – CNN)
Terracycle shreds flip flops, melts and molds them into lumber that can be used in things like picnic benches. You can also buy doormats made of upcycled flip flops on Amazon. Or even dog beds at DIY Dreaming.
When Buying New Flip Flops: Make A Sustainable Choice
The good news is that new manufactures of flip flops have guidelines that make new sandals recyclable. One company called Okabashi makes shoes that are 100% recyclable and some that are made from 100% recycled plastic. Splaff and Sanuk Footwear are additional companies producing footwear that are recycled or using natural materials. Find out more at Recyclescene. Learn more from Huffingtonpost: Eco Etiquette: How Can I Recycle Flip-Flops? (photo – Sanuk)
And find out what else you can do to fight ocean plastic. see our post: What You Can Do to Stop Ocean Plastic Debris
Adidas Is Making Running Shoes from Discarded Fishing Nets
We have seen numerous heartbreaking reports of the tremendous environmental costs associated with marine mammals being caught in fishing nets, and unfortunately once the nets are discarded the environmental damage does not end. Consequently any attempt to mitigate this problem is welcome.
See our BlueOcean.net posts on the new products that Adidas has introduced. Running shoes and a fashion line of swimwear all made from discarded fishing nets recovered from the Indian Ocean. See: Your Next Pair of Running Shoes can be made of Recycled Ocean Plastics and: In the Swim with Plastics Recovered from the Sea.
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