2008 Finalist Projects

Sole Traders

UniquEco Designs Ltd. - Kenya

A blight on the beaches of Kenya is now an income source for coastal communities thanks to UniquEco Designs.

Every year thousands of flip-flops fetch up on the coast of East Africa. Seeing the damage they do to marine ecosystems, Julie Church and Tahreni Bwanaali were moved to keep the flip-flop flotilla at bay. "We knew something had to be done," says Julie. "The indestructible rubber from the flip flops spoils the natural beauty of the beaches. It's mistakenly swallowed by marine feeders, and it stops hatching turtles reaching the safety of the sea."

Inspired by local children cutting makeshift toys from the colourful flip-flops, the two women started a company to make saleable products from recycled plastic. Beached flip-flops are collected and cleaned by coastal communities. Then they are sent to Nairobi to be made into attractive toys and gifts for sale in UniquEco's shop.

Currently UniquEco works with about 100 women who collect the waste on the coast and 20 permanent employees at headquarters. The environmental benefit is twofold. As well as cleaning up the beaches, Uniqueco helps prevent local communities from over-exploiting their natural resources by offering them an alternative income source. The company has also commissioned two giant flip-flop sculptures - one a life-size whale, the other a giraffe - to raise awareness of marine pollution.

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