Group ‘flip-flops’ old sandals into bracelets

By Debbie Sandler

Solana Beach Bag Lady

Many of you are familiar with Solana Beach’s ongoing plastic film recycling project I helped to start up and maintain.

I have discovered that the members of our community are very interested in being environmentally responsible and that, when given the necessary information about proper recycling and access to recycling avenues, they are motivated to do the right thing.

I am especially delighted that I get to share interesting recycling facts and stories with you now each month.

As you are aware, there is so much more to recycling than your blue and green curbside bins! I thought that I would start off with this noteworthy story. When we talk about recycling, we often refer to the issues as “green”; however, recycling can be “multicolored,” too ...

In September of 2008, a motivated group of four entrepreneurial women — Janet Harry, Susan Jensen, Amy Krause and Lois Mark — launched a Web site called “StyleSubstanceSoul,” which addresses all facets of modern women and concentrates on informing their readers about ways to “give back” in this world ... to people and to the environment.

They research all types of stories, and one that caught their eye was about an organization called UniquEco.

UniquEco was founded in 2005 by two women in Kenya who recognized the detrimental effect that the large numbers of flip-flops that washed ashore had on the East African coastline. Kenyan women and children were making cushions and toys out of this washed-up trash.

The women behind UniquEco were inspired to create a foundation whose aim it was to help build sustainable livelihoods for impoverished communities by “promoting ways to incentivize them to clear up the waste products around them” and create something beautiful and beneficial.

The bracelets created from “up-cycled” flip-flops are purchased from the Kenyan village women by UniquEco and sold to vendors around the world. They are $12 apiece, and each bracelet comes in a pouch, which is also produced from recycled material from the lining of shipping containers.

Included in each pouch is the story about where the bracelets came from and why they are so special. An order form can be downloaded from the “StyleSubstanceSoul” Web site at, the only West Coast vendor.

According to a representative from the California State Parks, discarded flip-flops right here along North County beaches is problematic as well. They end up either washed ashore or thrown away, contributing to our already overstuffed landfills. If you would like to donate your old flip-flops, you may ship them directly to UniquEco.

The address is P.O. Box 15565-00503, Nairobi, Kenya, and the cost is only a couple of dollars more than if you were shipping a package domestically.

I invite you, the reader, to please send any questions you may have or interesting recycling stories you’d like me to research and share to