Home Sci-TechEnvironment Africa: Flipflopi Sets Sail Around Lake Victoria to Raise Awareness On Pollution Menace in East Africa

Africa: Flipflopi Sets Sail Around Lake Victoria to Raise Awareness On Pollution Menace in East Africa

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World’s first recycled plastic sailing dhow will promote circular solutions and call for an end to unnecessary single-use plastic in the region

The Lake Victoria expedition – setting sail on 4th March – is promoting regional collaboration to address plastic pollution

Lake Victoria, Africa’s largest freshwater lake, is facing a myriad of environmental and social challenges that could impact the 40 million people living in the region

Flipflopi, the world’s first sailing boat made from 100% recycled plastic, is joining forces with the UN Environment Programme’s Clean Seas Campaign once more, this time embarking on an expedition by sailing around Africa’s largest freshwater ecosystem – Lake Victoria. The voyage aims to send an urgent message to the East Africa community on the need to end the unnecessary single-use plastic scourge that is threatening the region.

The current state of Lake Victoria, supporting 40 million East Africans, through food supply and livelihoods, symbolises the catastrophic effects of human activities and climate change, among other issues, resulting in significant water pollution which threatens the health and livelihoods of communities.

A recent study estimated that 1 in 5 of the fish in Lake Victoria had ingested plastic. Another recent study ubiquitously recorded microplastics in surface waters in several sites of Lake Victoria. At the heart of the plastic waste problem is the linear ‘take-make-dispose’ model of consumption, as products get manufactured, bought, used briefly, and then thrown away.

The Flipflopi is an initiative showcasing alternative uses of plastic waste and the possibilities of circular economy approaches. Over a three-week period, Flipflopi will sail from Kisumu, Kenya to several locations in Uganda and Tanzania, raising awareness and inspiring communities to adopt circular-waste solutions to beat plastic pollution.

“This Lake, Nam Lolwe, matters to me. It must matter to us all. Investing in research and development on blue economy investments, improving the health of the lake and riparian environment while ensuring that investments are ‘lake friendly’ from inception are amongst my priorities” said Governor of Kenya’s Kisumu County Anyang’ Nyong’o.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the need to address the myriad environmental crises, which can only be done through regional and global consensus on key issues like single-use plastic, and climate change,” said Joyce Msuya, Deputy Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP). “Flipflopi is a great African example of the circular economy in action; we are proud to see it start this new journey around Lake Victoria, a shared resource that we must do all we can to protect.”

Flipflopi’s Lake Victoria expedition will include several stops along the lake engaging community leaders, conservationists, business leaders and policymakers, demonstrating alternate uses of waste plastic and other circular waste models calling for an end to single-use plastics.

“Flipflopi was built to show the world that it is possible to make valuable materials out of waste plastic, and that single-use plastic really does not make sense,” said Ali Skanda, co-founder of the Flipflopi project and builder of the world’s first recycled plastic dhow. “By sailing around the lake, we aim to inspire people to create their own waste-plastic innovations and adopt circular solutions that will build greener businesses, whilst also taking plastic out of the environment. Together with communities across the Lake Victoria region we hope to bring awareness and innovative solutions to beat pollution and support a green recovery in East Africa”

Flipflopi is an example of innovative circular solutions applied at a national level to the pollution challenge. In Kisumu on the shores of Lake Victoria, CIST Africa are making hand sanitizer from invasive water hyacinth.

Innovators like Sanergy are turning Nairobi’s untreated organic waste into organic fertiliser for crops, feed for livestock, and fuel briquettes for energy. In Uganda, the women who set up Reform Africa are turning plastic waste into sustainable and waterproof bags, whilst providing school children in rural areas with bags for free. In Tanzania, a collective of local artisans known as ‘Made by Africraft’ are introducing youth and the unemployed to developing sustainable handicrafts to create a livelihood.

Flipflopi, the Clean Seas Campaign and partners aims to showcase green innovations as they sail around the lake, and inspire communities and businesses to act against plastic pollution.

As part of the expedition, the Flipflopi expedition will launch a petition calling for a regional ban on single-use plastics.

Flipflopi initiative is supported and by various partners including the national governments of Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania, UNEP, The UK’s Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO), the French Development Agency (AFD), The European Union, UN Live, as well as the private sector, including the law firm Anjarwalla and Khanna.


About Flipflopi

The Flipflopi project is a circular economy initiative based in East Africa whose vision is a world without single-use plastic. They showcase alternate uses of waste plastic and the viability of a circular economy in Africa through education programmes, Kenyan-based plastic recycling and waste management ‘innovation hubs’ and advocacy and governance programmes.

About the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)

UNEP is the leading global voice on the environment. It provides leadership and encourages partnership in caring for the environment by inspiring, informing and enabling nations and peoples to improve their quality of life without compromising that of future generations.

About UNEP Clean Seas Campaign

Launched by the United Nations Environment Programme in February 2017, the Clean Seas Campaign is an initiative that works with governments, businesses and citizens towards the goal of eliminating the use of unnecessary and avoidable plastics and to promote circular economy approaches. In 2021, the campaign is advocating for urgent global action to tackle this environmental crisis from source to sea.

To date, sixty-two countries from around the world have joined the campaign, making Clean Seas the biggest, most powerful global coalition devoted to ending marine plastic pollution. Commitments by signatory countries now cover more than 60 per cent of the world’s coastlines. Many countries have pledged to reduce or eradicate single-use plastics from their societies, or to invest more in national recycling facilities.

About The European Union

The European Union is a political and economic union of 27 Member States. Together, the European Union and its Member States are Uganda’s biggest development partner. The European Union supports good governance, rule of law, democracy and human rights in Uganda. The European Union is a key multilateral, development and trade partner of Uganda, working to improve green growth and the investment climate in Uganda to create decent jobs.

About UK’s Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office

The UK government through the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office is an official partner of The Flipflopi project. In November, the UK will host the UN climate change conference COP26, in Glasgow with Italy. This will provide an opportunity for the world to commit to urgent climate action on a path to a zero carbon future. The UK is partnering with East Africa to protect the marine environment, including reducing plastic litter, to allow future generations to build back better from COVID-19.