Marine waste and unemployment are two significant concerns in Kenya. A non-profit organization called Ocean Sole is on a mission to address them both.

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Flip-flop pollution piled up

Flip-flops litter the beaches throughout the region, adding stress to marine animals and detracting from the beauty of the beach. After the founder of Ocean Sole, Julie Church, witnessed children making toys out of flip-flop material, she encouraged them to continue and to get parents involved. As villagers began to wash, sort, cut and create, they found a viable side income by turning flip-flop waste into art they then sold at the local market.

Related: Divers remove nearly 50 tons of debris from coral reefs

Over six feet tall animal art

This year, the non-profit plans to recycle over one million flip-flops. Moreover, Ocean Sole’s plan is in alignment with its mission to lessen the rampant pollution on Kenya’s shores.

Life size camels with the team

In addition to progressively helping the environment, the company is community focused, with a goal of decreasing the nearly 40% unemployment rate. Local residents are also paid for the flip-flop collection. Artisans and organizational workers are employed as well. In all, the company estimates it supports around 1,000 people.

Artists working on the flip-flop art

The sculptures and other products made from the recycled materials facilitate the conversation about pollution and waste while benefiting the economy, planet, and community.

Flip flop art of an octopus

Further, Ocean Sole defines itself as a social enterprise, lifting up everyone involved in the process. It also sees environmental cleanup as a social cause. Inasmuch it not only aims to reuse one million flip-flops, but also forecasts recycling over one ton of plastic foam each month. By replacing wood with recycled waste materials, the company estimates it’s saving over five hundred trees per year.

The team with an art piece of a rhino

Acting as a voice for the environment, Ocean Sole donates over 10% of revenue to educational programs, conservation efforts, and beach cleanups.

It also employs over 100 workers from low-income families, provides bonuses, and supports continuing education for employees and their families. “People are the heart of our organization. We support equality & are passionate about community impact. We provide meals, healthcare, fair wages, and career advancement & educational opportunities, for not only our employees but their families as well.”

+ Ocean Sole

Images via Ocean Sole