Flipflopi, a sailing dhow made from 100 per cent recycled plastic, is on a world expedition while circumnavigating Africa’s largest freshwater ecosystem, Lake Victoria.
Just as ERNEST JJINGO observed when it docked at Ggaba two weeks ago, there is need for greater sensitization about disposal of waste.
Taking its vital message upstream and calling for an end to unnecessary single-use of plastic threatening the region, the boat’s visit coincided with Uganda’s annual Water and Environment Week which ran from March 21 to March 26 under the theme; water and environment security for socioeconomic transformation of Uganda.
The nine-metre sailing boat is made from eight tonnes of discarded plastic collected from the East African coast and it took two years to build with a capacity to carry 13 people plus food and other necessities and has so far sailed over 5,000km on the waters of Lake Victoria.
During its maiden voyage to Uganda, it set off from Kisumu in Kenya but made some stops at islands like Buvuma and Bulago, and Jinja before arriving in Kampala at Ggaba beach on March 19.
The Flipflopi dhow was built to start a positive African-led Non-Plastic Revolution to stem the flow of up to 12 million tonnes of plastic waste dumped into the world’s oceans each year and to highlight the potential for plastic waste to be re-used as part of a circular economy.
By sailing around Lake Victoria, the Flipflopi expedition aims to draw the world’s attention to the severe environmental degradation and pollution affecting Lake Victoria and other marine ecosystems and help bring regional consensus to the issue of plastic pollution.
It is also to highlight the impact of pollutants on the lake environment and human health, engage communities on circular economy principles relating to both plastic and non-plastic pollutants through demonstrations, education and sharing experiences, engage businesses and policymakers in the wider East African region to discuss alternative models and circular solutions required to beat pollution and drive a sustainable recovery.
Ali Skanda, co-founder of the Flipflopi project and builder of the world’s first recycled plastic dhow, said the boat was built to engage people around the value of waste plastic and that single use of plastic does not make sense.
“In Uganda, we hope to help draw attention to Ugandans who are making change happen in their communities. People like the End Plastic Movement and eco artists like Sandra Suubi, at critical times like the Water and Environment Week. We hope to use this opportunity to inspire local people on why we need to urgently change behaviors around plastic and show what they can do about it through art, innovation and circular economy approaches,” he said.
Throughout the Water and Environment Week, the Flipflopi project with help from local innovators and business leaders, showcased alternative uses of plastic waste and called for a consensus to ban unnecessary single use of plastics through engagements with schools, communities, policymakers and conservationists.
At Ggaba beach where it docked, there was also an exhibition on Green Circular Economy where different creative Ugandan initiatives like Kinawataka Women Initiative, Takataka Plastics, Kimuli Fashionability, Urban Action Lab and Eco Brixs, among others, showcased turning waste into wealth through different products made from recycled plastics like bags, baskets, wall hangings, portraits, ropes, belts, pillars and many other household products.
At another event at Munyonyo Speke Resort where the boat was introduced to the Nnabagereka of Buganda Sylvia Nagginda, she was delighted at how a boat made from plastic could sail on the lake for weeks over a long distance and, therefore, said that it ought to be used to propel action towards saving our lake and environment in general.
“Lake Victoria is our most important natural resource providing the water we drink, fish we eat and the farms that provide for us. Yet the lake is dying and our environments like Ggaba market with waste and plastic threatening lives and livelihoods. If we do not act now, we may be damaging our livelihoods but also our children’s future and the legacy we leave for our kingdom,” she said.
The Nnabagereka added that it is time to end single use of plastic like polythene bags and lead a plastic-free revolution like is symbolized by the Flipflopi boat and reignite pride in our environment. “End single use plastic and lead a plastic-free revolution in order to save our planet,” she said.