Unesco Green Citizens

Closing the Loop on Waste Plastics Through Heritage Boat Building

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Project begin: 01/01/2022

In Lamu, Kenya, to combat plastic pollution, craftsmen and engineers have designed the first traditional sailing dhow made entirely from plastic waste.

Leading organisation: The Flipflopi Project Foundation
Covered Countries: Kenya, Uganda, United Republic of Tanzania
Theme: Local and Indigenous Knowledge, Ocean
Sub-themes: Climate change, Cultural diversity, Environment, Knowledge sharing, Ocean education, Participatory/citizen science, Poverty and inequality reduction, Protecting marine ecosystems, Sustainable living, Waste management, Waste management
Tag: #Africa #Women #Youth
Selection: 2022
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Equipment supply
In search of financial partners
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On Lamu Island waste management is almost non-existent, populations are rising and due to the nature of currents, plastics continuously wash onto its shores. There is only one waste disposal site to cater for a population of 30,000. This area has no separation facilities and waste is left to pile up, blow across the island and into the ocean and in many instances is burnt openly.

Because many coastal communities and islands such as Lamu remain isolated from major towns and transport arteries they tend to be cut off from large-scale operations to dispose of and manage recyclable waste due to the cost of transport.

Community-based organisations have begun working to tackle the issue. In Lamu, the idea was to close the plastic waste loop by building heritage boats.

The project was initiated by Ben Morison. The founder of The Flipflopi project teamed up with Ali Skanda, a renowned sailing dhow builder from Lamu.

The first recycled plastic sailing dhow

In 2017, using traditional knowledge and techniques, they built the world’s first recycled plastic sailing dhow to show that single use plastics don’t make sense. They are building on the success of this to establish a Heritage Boat Building Training Centre to design and construct recycled plastic sailing vessels with local boat builders based on indigenous heritage, knowledge and skills.

The project team has already set up the first plastic recovery and recycling centre on the Lamu archipelago. Over 12 people are employed full time.

The objectives of The Flipflopi project? Accelerate Research and Design to build different types of vessels and explore complementary products. Establish a heritage boat building training centre to teach traditional techniques for boat building and modern techniques for working with recycled plastic. Establish a centralised Material Recovery Centre for plastics – the first of its kind in the Lamu archipelago.

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