Setting Sail for Change: The Inspiring Journey of the FlipFlopi Project

FlipFlopi flip flopi project Lamu Kenya

It’s not every day that the following exclamation: “You did what?!” comes with positive connotations. But this is exactly how we reacted when we caught up with the FlipFlopi Project, witnessing the remarkable progress of their groundbreaking initiative. 

Established as a not-for-profit endeavour, the FlipFlopi Project is driven by a clear vision: to develop self-sustaining enterprises that support the transition to a zero plastic waste circular economy, all while creating dignified jobs for the people of Lamu and preserving the island's rich heritage and natural environment.

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It’s been 5 years since the OG FlipFlopi dhow made headlines as the World’s First 100% Recycled Plastic Sail Boat. Since then, the dhow has been on several expeditions, namely a sail across Lake Victoria, the Lamu archipelago, and all the way from Lamu to Zanzibar. Throughout, the boat has become a powerful symbol of sustainable innovation, showcasing how traditional sailing boats crafted from plastic waste can drive tangible change.

However, the impact of FlipFlopi extends far beyond the boat itself. Today, it boasts a thriving plastic waste management enterprise, recycling up to 15 tonnes of plastic waste every month. With 30 full-time employees and over 300 plastic collectors, FlipFlopi not only removes plastic from the environment but also provides meaningful employment opportunities for the local community.flipflopi 8Furthermore, FlipFlopi serves as a vital educational hub, offering vocational training in recycling, carpentry, and boatbuilding. Through these programs, young craftsmen and women are equipped with the skills needed to carry forward age-old traditions while adapting to the challenges of the modern world.

In addition to its core initiatives, FlipFlopi has expanded its reach into new ventures, including a burgeoning furniture enterprise building Swahili tables and chairs, sunbeds, stools, frames and decorative art. Notably, the furniture enterprise produced a particularly culturally significant piece – the 'Kiti Cha Enzi' – a grandees chair visited by King Charles during his trip to Kenya in November.

Through these endeavours, FlipFlopi continues to innovate while preserving and celebrating Lamu's rich cultural heritage.fliflopi 6

Credits: British High Commission In Kenya

So what’s next for FlipFlopi? This incredible group of innovators have decided they will make a 24-meter boat capable of sailing the world. Not only that, they are now pushing strongly for a regional ban on unnecessary single-use plastics across the 7 East African Community Countries – ultimately, it's about reducing our consumption – and that’s the key message the dhow will carry across the world!

The Flipflopi Dhow is out of the water for renovations but will be operational again in March. If you would like to partner or support in any way, please get in touch for more information. 

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P.S. If you're interested in how FlipFlopi began, dive into their fascinating launch in 2018!

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