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Fashioning car tyres into flip-flops

What do TU Delft Industrial Design Engineering students, shoe designer Jan Jansen and the charity KidsRights' have in common? Plakkies; a socially responsible slipper made from recycled car tyres in South Africa.

By Jeanne Tan /asdf 18-06-2009

This summer, the slippers you wear could help make a difference to impoverished communities in South Africa. It might sound far-fetched, but if the founders of the recently launched Plakkies have anything do to with it, our feet are going to be doing some serious talking.

Plakkies, meaning slippers in Afrikaans, are flip-flops with soles made from recycled car tyres in a socially responsible factory near Durban, South Africa. An initiative between students of the faculty of Industrial Design Engineering at TU Delft and children's charity KidsRights', the super-comfortable slippers were designed by Dutch shoe maestro Jan Jansen. The colourful patterns inside the soles were drawn by children from the factory's nearby slum neighbourhoods.

In South Africa, car tyres are dumped en masse and illegally incinerated, causing devastating impact on the environment. Inspired by a very ingenuous African manner of reutilising materials, the soles of the slippers are fashioned from recycled car tyres.

Inspired by KidsRights, who had already set up a cuddly toy factory in South Africa, Plakkies co-founder Arnoud Rozendaal went in search of something more suited for TU Delft. In Michel Boerrigter's graduation project, he discovered just that - a cool, sustainably produced slipper. With help from Jan Jansen, support of the university and sponsorship from companies in South Africa and The Netherlands, the project was able to get off the ground.

A special factory was established to facilitate the project with the aim to offer permanent employment in one of the most socially and economically neglected parts of South Africa. The factory now employs 70 untrained residents from slum areas, many of whom are infected with HIV. This job offers them a chance to rebuild their lives, often after years of unemployment. With their salary, each employee can support up to ten other people in their neighbourhood. Safety, training and health are number one issues in the factory and anti-Aids drugs are distributed daily at mealtimes.

All profits made from the sale of Plakkies will be donated in full to KidsRights' orphan projects in South Africa.

Plakkies are available in a spectrum of colours: purple night, cool grey and hot pink for women and denim blue and brown sun for men. They are on sale in The Netherlands for EUR 39.95 at de Bijenkorf, America Today, Dr.Adams, Sacha, Open 32, Five Pocket, The Stone and of course the TU Delft shop in the Aula building. Check the website for international stockists.

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