Repurposing/recycling flip flops

In Australia, we call flip flops “thongs”, which can mean something completely different in the USA. A slang term for them here is also “Japanese riding boots”. Whatever you call them, they are a really cheap and handy bit of footwear.

Cheap can also refer to construction – as in nasty. The base flip flops you buy here for a few bucks are lucky to last a summer season, usually due to the strap snapping or pulling through the sole. A pair I had recently lasted very well and I wore down to where there was no material left in parts of the sole – so it pays to spend just a few extra bucks and buy “double bung” ones – extra fastenings through the sole.

What are flip flops made of?

Not much good news here – they used to be primarily made from rubber and while rubber flip flops can still be purchased today, they are often made from polyurethane; as are the soles of many shoes. Polyurethane is a number 7 resin, meaning that you can’t throw these into your recycling bin. While there are some companies out there recycling polyurethane, they usually only accept it in large quantities.

Being constructed from polyurethane, which is yet another plastic derived from crude oil, this means they are going to be hanging around the environment for a very, very long time once discarded.

Flip flops were one of the most common items I used to find when cleaning up a section of a local river bank. I picked up dozens of them in a very short stretch, so I’d hate to think how many millions of these things are floating around the waterways of the world.

What can be done with retired flip flops?

The most creative use I’ve seen for flip-flops was when I was a teenager working for a guy with a very old and cantankerous truck.

We were on a long distance trip and the radiator tank blew a hole. In true Aussie bush mechanic tradition, he hammered a stick into the hole to slow the leak. The hole grew bigger, so bigger sticks were used, up until the point they became parts of branches. Then he had a brainstorm. He wrapped part of a flip flop around a branch and hammered that in. the cushioning around the branch prevent the hole from becoming bigger and gave us enough time to hit the next town while cruising at a leisurely 20 miles per hour. That’s a little extreme, so here’s some more practical tips:

– If you’re a crafty type, you can create toys from flip flops

– Shred them for use as stuffing in cushions

– Shredded thongs can also be used as packing materials

– Cushioning for legs of tables and chairs to prevent them from scratching wooden and slate floors

– Place sections under large appliances to prevent floor scratching and in the case of washing machines and dryers, reduce vibration

– Can be cut to size to use as gaskets where heat isn’t an issue

– Fishing floats

– Cut into thin strips, connect with string to create a fly curtain

– Stick the soles into an old pair of socks for use as a rudimentary boot/slipper. Definitely not a fashion statement, but if no-one is looking, who cares :).

– Cut to size for filling in gaps in doors

– Glue a couple of layers together for use as door/gate stops and buffers

These are just a few ideas that I’ve tried, seen or have just sprung to mind to get this thread started. What about you? Do you have a tip for re-using flip flops that are past their prime? Let’s try and keep some of these out of the waste stream for as long as possible – please add your thoughts below!