Be careful which flops you choose, because most are made from PVC (a very toxic type of plastic). There are also tyre flops (made from recycled tyres) which sound great in theory, but should only be used while pottering around, not at the beach (read later for why). If you use flops, you want ones that are totally biodegradable, so if you lose one in a wave or one drops off your boat, it won’t break down into microplastics and harm marine wildlife.
Flops are a huge issue, and it was quite educational to find out just how big a problem this is. Around 3 billion people on earth (getting on for a third of the world population) wear flops, simply because it’s the only kind of shoes they can afford, and also they are very comfortable and practical for living in hot countries. The average life of a flop is around 2 years. Again due to poverty, even when they start to fall apart, people often mend them with duct tape, then eventually when they do fall apart, many countries don’t have recycling plants etc, so they end up getting thrown away, and usually end up in the sea, or on landfills.
Are Flops Good For Your Feet?
Not if you wear them all the time. Obviously lots of people have no choice. But wearing them day in and day out can give you flat feet. Foot doctors say that if you use them, save them for ‘pottering’ and don’t wear them all the time. In England, few people constantly wear flops (apart from some sailors) so it’s not really an issue. Flops are great to keep your feet cool in hot weather and even for pottering, but don’t wear them constantly, 24/7 when you’re awake.
In Kenya, they produce around 100,000 of flops a day, yet often with no recycling systems to dispose of them. In Nairobi, an urban ‘slum’ (a horrible word) had its clean water supply blocked by a back-up of discarded flops. As if the local people living there don’t have enough problems.
The founder of Ocean Sole (below) once discovered an entire beach covered in flops, with dead fish and turtles who could not even come on the land to hatch their eggs (like you see in nature documentaries) because there was not enough room, the beach was full of flip-flops. Crabs are dying, plants are dying, all due to the plastic flop industry.
On Australia’s paradise Cocos Keeling Islands, a recent torrent of debris washed up, with close to one million plastic shoes (mostly flops) being found on the beach. If things carry on like this, by 2050 there will be more plastic than fish in the sea. You’ve likely heard of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch (a massive ball of waste the size of Texas swirling around in the Pacific Ocean). A good portion of this is made up of discarded flops.
Have a Flop Recycling Amnesty
Terracycle is a US company that offers community one-off boxes to recycle difficult-to-recycle items. It makes money on some items (like crisp packets) so the boxes are free, but this one has a charge of around £100 so people have to get together to show the love, to cover the costs of recycling. You could do this as a town or large company and get everyone to pay £1 and have a ‘flop amnesty’. The flops are then safely recycled, to avoid them ending up on landfills.
Where To Find Good Flops
There are presently two good brands we could find. These are both made from 100% rubber. Note that flops made from recycled tyres are great for pottering, but do not use these near the beach. This is because tyres are not just rubber, but also contain plastic. So again if you lose one when at the beach (like it came off your foot in a wave and drifted away), it would still break down into microplastics. Even just walking at the beach can ‘drop off’ pieces of plastics. So go for natural rubber, and you can’t go wrong.
Waves Flip Flops are made from rubber sourced from the foothills of Sri Lanka, certified fair wage and ethical working practices. Natural rubber acts like a natural memory foam, moulding to your feet to offer unique support. Sold in several sizes.
Sea Sense Flops also makes 100% rubber flops that would biodegrade if you lose them in the sea. Profits from each pair sold go towards collecting 500 ocean-bound plastic bottles from polluted waterways and coastlines around the way. These flops are shock-absorbing and waterproof, with no ‘uncomfortable toe rub’ like with cheaper plastic brands. The rubber is sourced from tree farms in Vietnam, and can be composted at end of use, or send them back for recycling.
Many companies make more flops from recycled flops. This again is great in theory, but only use these for pottering. Again if you lose one at the sea or walk on the beach, the microplastics go on the sand, and then back to sea once the tide comes in (the same for recycled plastic towel, sunglasses or swimwear). You can buy sunglasses made from wood or bamboo, both of which are biodegradable. Of course, the lens is still likely made from plastic, but this is as good as it gets, right now.
Downward Duck makes colourful yoga blocks made from recycled flops. Ideal to get into alignment for poses when doing Iyengar or restorative yoga.