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The challenge of the Flip Flop

The Auzzies call them thongs, the Brazilians call them chinelas, Japanese the zori, the Spanish chanclas and in the Pacific they are slippers. The globally known Flip Flop name comes from the sound the foot makes when you walk on Flip Flops. Some associate flips flops with summertime, holiday, and lifestyle design. And did you know that Flip Flops are the No. 1 shoe in India, China and Africa? They are also the oldest form of footwear and the most popular footwear in the world. This comes with a flip-flop problem… Because most flip flops today are made from plastic threatening the health of the ocean. Lost and tossed flip-flops are travelling oceans and are becoming a routine find during beach cleanups. Plastic flip-flops also wear down easily transporting microplastic to the ocean through our waterways.  [/av_textblock] [av_textblock size=” font_color=” color=” admin_preview_bg=” av_uid=’av-y6ofgz’]

A few facts on the current FlipFlop situation

  • Globally 3 billion people a year purchase flipflops (1) 
  • It is estimated that global flip-flop sales top $20 billion, that’s more than sneaker market! (2)
  • From 30.000 items collected during a research mission on a remote island in the Indian Ocean, 11.000 were flip flops! (3)
  • They were called Flip Flaps until the 1960’s (1) Would plastic have turned the Flap into a Flop?
  • One of the largest pollutants in the ocean is polyurethane from flip flops and other shoes that have been washed or thrown into rivers and flow into the ocean (4)

Flip the flop on the Flip Flap. What can you do?

#PlasticFreeNomad ocean impact hacks

  • Walk Barefoot or wear shoes. Walking with flip flops is a risky business as your feet are more vulnerable to dropped objects, hit toes, and it’s damaging for your posture (How flipflops are killing your feet). Since I badly sprained my ankle last year (wearing flip-flops), and the other ankle the year before, and I don’t want this to happen again – ever, my favourite alternative these days is just walking barefoot or with proper shoes. Walking barefoot is super healthy too. Learn why.
  • Repair flip flops, shoes, and sandals, or buy second hand, instead of buying new ones.
  • Buy (or make) flip-flops made from natural materials. Flip Flops exists from all sorts of materials, including papyrus, palm leaves, wood, and rice straw. Natural rubber is the most common and available natural flip flop material. Natural rubber is biodegradable (3). Make sure it’s fair trade!
  • Wear flipflops that fit. This sounds silly but how easy is it to loose one?
  • Support ethical fair trade flip flop and foodwear entrepreneurs.

Oceanpreneurs on top of the wave

Ocean Sole Flip Flop recycling

OceanSole, a Kenyan social enterprise, turns Flip Flop pollution into art and functional products to promote ocean conservation. They clean beaches, upcycle the flip-flop, and now export these magnificent creations, and the strong message about the importance of reducing plastic pollution, to over 25 countries around the world.

Algenesis Flip-Flops are developing flip-flops from Algae! Not in store yet… But could this be the solution?

Holly & Heather crowdfunded Ollieworld. They make Flip-flops that are made out of fair trade natural rubber making the flip flop circular while treating every person involved in production with dignity, respect, and safety.

Sole makes flip-flops from 100% recycled wine corks.

And Subz in New Zealand makes flip-flops from repurposed plastic waste. With every pair sold they remove one pound of trash and supports one child in need for a whole month.

On Etsy you can find lots of flip flops made from natural materials, like flipflops made from cork.

Natural material flipflop recommendations


Learn more about this campaign and navigate to more #plasticFREEnomad hacks

As always, opinions are my own. No organisation or brand is paying me to write this or mention them.  I only recommend brands from who I believe wholeheartedly in their commitment to creating zero waste and plastic-free ocean solutions. Sometimes links to ocean-friendly alternatives to plastic contain affiliate links. If you’re looking to purchase something, huge thanks if you purchase it via this website (but try to find it locally first! ). At no extra cost to you, orders and bookings through this website give me a tiny piece of the pie that help me keep investigating, exploring and creating content about on ocean action and solutions! Together we can turn the tide on plastic. Here are more ways to support ocean awareness and action. Splashthanks! 




Hi! My name is Suzanne. I'm here to help you go on ocean adventures and make positive impact for a healthier ocean. Explore this website to learn what I do and how you can make some splashes too!


  • James Mason says:

    It is slightly strange that you are promoting ocean health and yet the picture you choose to do this with at the top of the page is that of you with a child surrounded by plastic?!

    • Suzanne says:

      Hey James! Thanks for the comment. There on the photo I was taking this little girl Nilsu out for a sea clean up together with her inflatable crocodile friend. An ocean warrior in the making.

  • Andy says:

    Hi James, I have just found Waves Flip Flops here in the UK, 100% natural rubber from Sri Lanka so polyurethane free and their website says that they are fair trade so have just bought a pair. Just done my little bit this year for the oceans!

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