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Other Second Chances

Plastic is notoriously tricky to recycle—that’s why it’s such a generous and eco-friendly choice to re-gift your gently used plastics to organizations like Second Chance Toys. (And bonus: you’re bound to bring a smile to a child’s face!)

While donating can be good for the soul, if you’re anything like me, a reminder of the goodness of other people also brightens up my day. With that on my mind, I went on a mission to find some of the most creative and inspiring ways other people are reusing plastic to encourage those around them.

From Flip-Flops to Toys

Kenya, with its warm temperatures and beautiful beaches, has an interesting predicament: thousands of abandoned flip-flops left on its shores each year. Flip-flops are cheap and easily replaceable, but the environmental cost (and risk to animals that digest the plastic) is very real.

In comes Ocean Sole, a Kenya-based recycling company that transforms discarded plastic flip-flops into fun, colorful toys, jewelry, and other miscellaneous creations (juggling balls, anyone?) The bulk of their store consists of safari sculptures--toy elephants, giraffes and more in a rainbow of colors.

I have to say, I’m a big fan! Who knew would-be waste could turn into something so beautiful?

If you’d like to learn more, CNN recently did a great feature here or visit them at

From Toys to Full-Scale Medical Devices

I remember as a middle-schooler, my first phone was a plastic and see-through--with all the colorful inner-wirings on full display. When my mom saw my purchase, she asked, “Is it real or is it a toy?”

Little Devices, a medical technology group, out of MIT, probably wouldn’t be so quick to dismiss toys. They help clinics in third-world countries use toys and toy parts to create, real, life-saving medical devices. While they often get donations of outdated medical equipment from the U.S. and Europe, it’s impossible for them to replace parts or otherwise repair the high-tech equipment they receive.

The solution? Toys!

Toys are everywhere—and they’re cheap. A Nicaraguan clinic needed an alarm to go off when an IV bag would empty. They did this with some ingenuity and a toy gun that buzzes should you hit the trigger. Little Devices also creates kits to help provide parts in a very Do-It-Yourself fashion—some kits even contain Legos!

I have to admit, I never won an art show or science fair as a kid, but I’m glad there are people out there that are way more creative than I am putting together these small medical miracles. Even more incredibly, it’s collaboration between people in different continents who simply share the same goal of saving lives.

If you’d like to learn more, I found a fun video interview with Little Devices here, the New York Times recently wrote a quite in-depth piece here, and you can visit them at

Author: Susan Kemp, Denver-based freelance writer