Prior to building colourful boats out of plastic Ben spent a decade building a travel business focused on Africa – aided and abetted by lots of photos of the glorious Indian Ocean coastline from Kenya down to Cape Town. As a direct response to the alarming degradation of this coastline by plastics, and flip flops in particular, Ben started the FlipFlopi Project. There is clearly a huge lag between the scale of the ocean plastics problem and the level of awareness about it amongst everyday consumers. The FlipFlopi Project is committed to changing that.
The FlipFlopi Projects chief boat builder - Ali comes from a family of carpenters and dhow builders in Lamu that traces its roots back to the very first settlers arriving on Lamu in the 1300’s. His father and grandfather were the first craftsman to carve the ornate wooden doors that have – alongside Dhow building – since become synonymous with Lamu. Ali himself has taken up the baton and is a renowned 'master carver' and Dhow Fundi (builder) in his own right - with examples of his work found in museums and collections around the world – the National Museum in Washington DC among them. Ali is passionate about Lamu's heritage and about preserving the health of the oceans both for marine life and coastal peoples worldwide.
Having lived on the Kenyan Coast for seven years, Dipesh became addicted to trash. He was obsessed with what else one could do with all the flip-flops and discarded bottles that he picked off the beach. For a few years, he had a lot of fun building giant size sculptures (have a look at Mfalme the Whale) from thousands of flip-flops as well as houses, water tanks and other structures from plastic bottles. Alas, his children, he was told, could not spend their lives picking trash, and school fees had to be raised, so he and his family left the coast and moved up country where he currently runs an outdoor adventure company near Mt Kenya where its far too cold to wear flip-flop.
Based in Malindi on the Kenya Coast, Regeneration Africa is a recycling business that is producing the component parts of the Flipflopi Dhow – all from 100% recycled plastic waste.
Owners Sam Ngaruiya and Lillian Wangari Mungai are more than just commercial partners of our project. They have gone way beyond the call of duty developing the technology and processes required to manufacture the big construction pieces we need in the boat build, and they are also active participants in numerous environmental education initiatives all helping raise awareness of ocean plastics and the #Plasticrevolution on the Kenya coast.
When they are not manufacturing parts for the Flipflopi Dhow, Regeneration Africa also make 100% recycled plastic fence posts, roof tiles and numerous other items… we can’t recommend them more highly.. see their website for more information; www.regenerationafrica.com
Leonard is a design engineer, dedicated to turn the tide around and create a sustainable balance between us and our hosting biosphere. His experience in product development ranges from microscopic parts and plastic composites to large solar constructions. In all his projects, he is determined to care for, and promote the environment. He grew up in Germany, studied and worked in the Netherlands, and in 2016 washed ashore in Kenya.
Leonard is a nature lover and, as a surfer he is very well aware of the pollution of the seas and coasts worldwide, and its danger to living beings.In this project, he engineers the bridge between traditional craftsmanship and modern materials. He believes that the ubiquitous trash plastic can be turned into a valuable and widely available resource, and that this project can inspire many to make their own objects and creations.
Sakhile Mthembu was born and bred in KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa. Having lived in multiple cities, like Pietermaritzburg, Durban, Pretoria, Johannesburg and most recently Nairobi Kenya. He has seen firsthand the implications of plastic pollution and the devastating effects it has on the environment. He truly prides himself with the work that he is doing with The FlipFlopi Expedition campaigning for a social change and inspiring the public towards the plastic revolution.
“My biggest motivation daily is to leave a lasting legacy for my son to enjoy, a clean beautiful environment.”
Benson is the flip-flop man of the Kenyan South Coast. He has been involved in environmental work (Marine Conservation Project) for many years: leading beach clean ups, and is specialized in making art out of recycled flip-flops. He taught many youths (Camp International) on the dangers of flip-flops in the ocean and shared his flip-flop craft skills
with them. One example of his impressive workmanship is the huge turtle made out of thousands of flip-flops, collected from Diani beach, in front of the Nakumatt supermarket.
A powerful symbol to create local awareness on the flip-flop pollution along the coast line. Benson is committed to make the Dhow the most colourful FlipFlopi boat. He is excited to contribute his expertise towards this unique environmental project. It will ask tremendous skills to ensure 200,000 flip-flops will be fitted safely!
Nathalie has lived since almost two decades in Western Kenya working in health, hospitality and financial services. Living on the shores of Lake Victoria and spending most of December each year at the precious Kenyan coast, she witnessed first hand the fast growing plastic pollution.
When on safari in Amboseli National Park, she saw schoolkids and teachers throwing plastic bottles at monkeys and realized at that moment she wanted to be part of an awareness creating solution on the dangers of plastic, in a fun way, with an appeal to all ages groups globally. As a mother of two she is driven by the saying: ’we only borrow this world from our children’ and is excited to be involved with and raise awareness for this innovative unique vibrant colorful venture! She has started by donating her flip flops for the boat building and you can find her most of the times, walking bare feet in Lamu!
Born and bred in Nairobi, Kenya. Elahe studied in the UK and US where she fell in love with recycling. After working in management and strategy consulting with Bain & Company in London, Johannesburg and Lusaka, Elahe was excited to realise the huge potential surrounding the business case for going green. Recent visits around Kenya highlighted the negative impact plastic has on her beautiful home country and the communities who rely on the environment. Elahe is thrilled to be part of such an epic and ambitious project to make the world a cleaner greener place!
Whilst his roots are in London, generations of Shyam's family were born and raised in East Africa and he has managed to work his way back to this wonderful part of the world. Shyam is now resident in Kenya, as a lawyer for a young English company. The opportunity to join the FlipFlopi Project was immediately alluring to Shyam as it is aiming to tackle, head-on, the acute impact of plastic pollution. Shyam hopes the project will have a lasting impact on how persons in East Africa, and beyond, go about reducing their consumption of plastics.
Having lived in Kenya and later Nigeria since 2007 as a banker, Jan has been lucky to have visited many parts of Africa. In doing so he has seen first-hand the devastating effect that humans have had on the environment; oil spills in the Niger Delta, the desertification of the Sahel region, over-fishing in Mozambique and recently, the shocking plastic pollution of the Indian Ocean in Kenya.
Jan is looking forward to the challenge this project is going to put on him - both as a participant in the expedition, as well as the much greater task of helping engage plastic consumers worldwide on this important issue. Each week, 2 Empire State Building's worth of plastic enters the oceans. Jan hopes our initiative will help bring some urgency to addressing this unfolding natural disaster.