The Flipflopi Project: Mitigating Plastic Pollution through Heritage Boat Building

Background Information

The Flipflopi Project – Mitigating Plastic Pollution through Heritage Boat Building – has established a first-of-its-kind plastic waste Material Recovery Facility and a Heritage Boat Building Training Centre in the UNESCO heritage site of Lamu Archipelago, Kenya. Communities in Lamu use various hardwoods, such as teak, mango and mahogany, to construct traditional boats/dhows to support their livelihoods. These communities are faced with the dual challenge of rising plastic pollution and a shrinking hardwood supply through deforestation. Guided by the principles of a circular economy, the project, together with key partners, is combatting both challenges simultaneously by constructing traditional sailing and motorised vessels, as well as artisanal furniture, from plastic waste collected from Lamu and Kenya Mainland as opposed to from hardwood.

By combining indigenous knowledge with modern innovation, the project is effectively tackling ecosystem health and sustainability challenges while empowering the local community through collaboration, training and community involvement in the project.


Material recovery and recycling is on track with over 23 tonnes of plastic collected, and processed for manufacturing since the beginning of 2024. This is contributing to the feedstock for the manufacturing centre – the first recovery and recycling facility of its kind in the entire country. To encourage plastic collection, the project has rolled out a rewards system to its collector network of approximately 700 people, including food vouchers, and has engaged with the Red Cross Youth Collection Initiative. 44 tonnes of crushed plastic has also been transferred to recyclers in Mombasa and Nairobi.

The sustainable manufacturing of products is on track with 29 054 kg of plastic waste having been converted to plastic lumber to date, of which 13 771 kg has been upcycled into over 40 unique products that have commercial value. Since April 2023, 89 products accounting for 3 603 kg of plastic have been sold, contributing to the project’s financial viability and sustainability. FlipFlopi continues to research and develop systems for improved recycling processes, including hard to recycle plastics. Three different artisanal boats have also been built, two of which, a taxi boat and a FlipFlopi boat, have been approved for seaworthiness by local regulatory authorities. The project is also piloting the use of an electric engine on the taxi boat to test its efficacy.

Through the Heritage Boatbuilding Training Centre, the project has delivered short two-day courses to over 50 participants between January and April 2024. Plans are underway to conduct additional courses in 2024 and trainers have been secured for these. Technical and Vocational Training Courses also have been presented for accreditation in Kenya’s national vocational curriculum.

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January 2022 – October 2024



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