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Flip Flops Trash Recycled Into Art

Updated on July 30, 2011

Millions and Millions of Flip Flops

If you had bought one pair of flip flops in your life, and everyone else on earth had bought one pair, that would be 7 billion flip flops. Most of the people in the world wear flip flops, and most of them only wear flip flops. So, of course, they wear out. And since they are cheap, less than a dollar, it's easier to buy a new pair than repair the old. So one person might use, oh, 30? 40? 50? more? pair in a lifetime? That's billions and billions of flip flops. You begin to get the picture. And true enough, there are whole garbage dumps -- particularly in developing countries such as those in Africa -- that are full of piles and piles of discarded flip flops.

Monkey From Flip Flops. . . . Photo story below.

Take it to the dump!
Take it to the dump! | Source

Huge piles of trash

Generally, industrial recycling of plastics, which you might assume takes care of the problem, is reserved for the really big jobs of recycling. And when you realize that plastics, which make up 11% of all recycled materials, are predominantly used for REALLY BIG industries, like:

  1. building and construction materials
  2. transportation parts and supplies
  3. and furniture and bedding

When you realize this, then who really cares about those mountains and mountains of discarded thongs washing up along the shores of Kenya and other nations?


The Special Problem With Plastics...think Flip Flops

“Plastic waste from bags, bottles, and flip-flops is a very persistent and large part of marine litter on beaches and in the seas,” said Peter Scheren, project manager of the Indian Ocean Lab project.

Flip Flops Hazard


Flip Flops are made of plastic, PVC or Polyurethane, which are among the most indestructible. Chemicals used in manufacturing plastic shoes such as flip flops pose hazards both to factory workers and to the consumers who buy and wear them. Once discarded these chemicals leach out and harm the environment.1

1 "Chemicals - Up Close, Plastic Shoes From All Over the World", a report conducted by the Swedish Society for Nature Conservation. An analysis of shoes from 6 diverse countries revealed that all contained phthlate DEHP, harmful to humans.


The litter is not limited to just one ocean on the planet. Consider what is known as the Pacific Ocean Garbage Patch, a huge zone larger than twice the size of Texas, located between North America and Japan that is increasingly littered—6 times more plastic than plankton according to one report!

This eternal litter does not biodegrade, it just breaks down into smaller and smaller pieces, even to a powder. It has been found in the stomachs of small fish and birds and is working its way up the food us!

Check out this following video about the Pacific Ocean Garbage Patch, swirling bits of plastic, working its way up the food chain.

What Can One Woman Do. . . Toys and Gifts from Flip Flops

Julie Church is a marine biologist and a Kenyan who has tackled the flip flops problem head on. She said in an interview with the New York Times, “Flip flops are a global problem, just one indicator of the myriad rubbish in the sea, which we are treating as the world’s dumping ground.”

"Tons and tons and tons of plastic waste, including flip flops, flow down rivers and clog drainage systems, and animals are swallowing them," she said.

Julie Church Repurposes Flip Flops

She came up with a creative solution, that is at least a beginning. She started a company using local Kenyans to make toys and gifts by reclaiming flip flops and selling the colorful products to eco-friendly fashion boutiques in the United States.

Ms. Church said piles of the flip flops wash up on shore and prevent the protected hawks bill and green turtles from leaving the sea to nest. Research has shown that the PVC, the most evil of plastics, and polyurethane are toxic to humans.

Julie Church's Company

She receives boxes of flip flops that have washed up on the beaches of San Diego and Hawaii. Her company, UniquEco, turns them into butterfly key rings, and large sculptures of monkeys for chic eco-boutiques in New York City. The company makes the toys by peeling off and discarding the old outer layer and using the highly-colored, compacted innards.

This year, Ms. Church estimates that she will recycle 15 tons of rubber and plastic sandals. A mere drop in the swelling ocean of east Africa’s plastic refuse, but nonetheless a start.

Flip Flop Monkey Made by Sao Paulo Students

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Fat Monkey made of Flip Flops
Fat Monkey made of Flip Flops
Fat Monkey made of Flip Flops | Source


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    • JSParker profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Detroit, Michigan

      Yes, I agree it is truly wonderful, RTalloni. The Kenyan effort shows the fabulous ingenuity of the human mind and spirit. If we can bring the commitment to act to any problem, even what to do with unwanted trash, it's amazing how creative people can be. Julie Church took the discarded, the used up and worn out, and transformed it into something of value, all the while cleaning up our world.

    • RTalloni profile image


      6 years ago from the short journey

      It's a wonderful thing to see how the Kenyans began recycling the flip flops, then how Julie Church began promoting their work, how that created income for the artists, resulting all of them working together in the effort.

    • JSParker profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Detroit, Michigan

      Thanks for the votes, suziecat7! Isn't it amazing to become aware of the impact of every single thing we own and consume? Who would think a little pair of flip flops would be detrimental? But, I guess, multiply anything by 7 billion....... It's a great way to look at ethics, as in "What if everybody did what I do?"

    • suziecat7 profile image


      6 years ago from Asheville, NC

      What an interesting Hub. I've never been a flip flop person and I'm glad of that now. Awareness is everything and it's great that some folks are crestive enough to recycle. Rated up and I'm a fan.

    • JSParker profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Detroit, Michigan

      Hey Professor, good to hear from you! I agree. Barefoot is probably better than flip flops for running. It's amazing, isn't it? Everything we humans do seems to impact the environment. Thank goodness for the few of us who really take it on to counteract the damage, create awareness, and do something creative like the amazing Julie Church.

      Thanks for the votes. I appreciate it!

    • profile image

      Aka Professor M 

      7 years ago

      @JSParker: Being a Long Distance Runner, Hiker & Bicyclist, I've not felt the need nor desire to buy flip flops so now after reading your excellently researched hub I'm glad that I haven't. My neighbor however lives in them so I guess that we offset each other, LOL!.

      Thanks for writing this timely piece and i hope to drop in more often J.S. Voted this up and push all the buttons that apply!

      Regards Mike (Aka Professor M!) ;D

    • JSParker profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Detroit, Michigan

      Barbs... well since you don't wear 'em I especially appreciate your reading my hub about flip flops. The news about flip flop trash was amazing to me and I so admire Julie Church and what she does. Thank you so much for your comment.

    • Barbsbitsnpieces profile image

      Barbara Anne Helberg 

      7 years ago from Napoleon, Henry County, Ohio, USA

      @JSParker...Flip flops...can't wear them (my feet are toe-crooked) and never liked them, BUT this Hub is very creative, and I enjoyed it a great deal.

      It's trash educational, too. It touches on sea trash, which was a topic on a recent TV show I watched with great interest. So...thanks for sharing this Hub!

    • JSParker profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Detroit, Michigan

      Peggy, I'm SO appreciative that you told me about the Pacific Garbage Patch video. There are actually a lot of videos about this garbage heap, so I've edited the hub and added another video. This shows that you thoroughly read the hubs you are commenting on. You have my high regards for this. Thank you so much!

      Wow, happyboomernurse, I feel extremely honored by your vote of confidence...and that you would nominate me. I'm very moved by this. Very best regards.

    • Happyboomernurse profile image

      Gail Sobotkin 

      7 years ago from South Carolina

      Although you're new to Hub Pages, your hubs are very unique, timely and well put together. I'm nominating you for the "Most Likely to have Hubs Go Viral" Hubbie Award.

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 

      7 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Fantastic hub raising awareness of something that impacts us all. The first video no longer works but the 2nd one by Julie Church is fantastic. Such a great idea to help clear the ocean and provide a living for people at the same time by creating art. Lots of votes on this one and well deserved! Also tweeted!

    • JSParker profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Detroit, Michigan

      Thank you Eiddwen, I am so pleased that you read my hub, and I appreciate your comment.

    • Eiddwen profile image


      7 years ago from Wales

      Such an interesting hub and I now look forward to reading many more by you.

      Take care


    • JSParker profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Detroit, Michigan

      I know what you mean, Happyboomernurse. How many people are really aware of this environmental problem? And even being aware, people have to cope with the challenges of daily living, making a living, and caring for their own families and friends. And what can we do anyway? I have in recent years started contributing to organization that work on cleanup and public awareness. I think Ocean Conservancy is one of these, but there are many others.

      Great to see you and thanks for your wonderful comment!

    • Happyboomernurse profile image

      Gail Sobotkin 

      7 years ago from South Carolina

      This hub was amazing. I watched the picture slide show of the whimsical monkey first and that made me smile, but when I read the rest of the article I was horrified, especially by the huge garbage mass in the Pacific Ocean-I'd heard about the floating trash before but had no idea it had gotten larger than the continental United States! And I had no idea the plastic was breaking down into small bits that get eaten by the fish, and thus eventually us.

      Great hub. Voted up, useful and awesome.

    • JSParker profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Detroit, Michigan

      Treasuresofheaven - Nice to see you! I'm with you, I had no idea what a big problem they are. I was writing about my favorite flip flops, Havaianas, in another hub, and came across the video about Julie Church. So that started me into writing this hub. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is really scary.

    • Treasuresofheaven profile image

      Sima Ballinger 

      7 years ago from Michigan

      Thanks for this great share about Flip Flops. We just bought a few pair this week. I did not know that Flips Flops/material they are made of is such a huge problem. Funny thing is, more and more varieties are being made and sold each year.

      I really enjoyed the share about Ms. Church's company. Vote UP!!!


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