19/07/2017 10:52 BST | Updated 19/07/2017 10:52 BST

Why I'm Saying 'Pants' To Pollution

As with most things in life, peek under the surface and you'll see what lurks beneath.

And never has this been more true than when it comes to the world's oceans.

Last summer, my family and I skimmed across the enticing blue waves of the Mediterranean during a sailing holiday through the Adriatic Sea, off the coast of Croatia and Montenegro.

The water was crystal clear and the trip idyllic.

Yet if you looked closely, past the shimmer, you couldn't help but notice the shoals of plastic pollution that litters this marine wonderland.

Our oceans are being systematically abused and, to me, it's heartbreaking.

And I'm ashamed that this is what my teenage daughter will inherit from my generation, when it could have been so different. It saddens my greatly.

I've always had an affinity with the sea. It's become part of my DNA.

Growing up in the coastal town of Rauma, Finland, my father Immu was a sea captain, taking commercial cargo across the world. I was pretty much born on the seas, accompanying him on long distance voyages - even on huge icebreakers in the extreme north - and I fell in love with this landscape.

I learned to sail as a young child and eventually got a job as a cook on commercial vessels shuttling between Sweden and Finland.


(Author's own)

And I've seen for myself the damage and destruction that's been wrought upon the oceans.

I remember a time when the Baltic Sea was so clear you could see a coin at a depth of 15 metres.

Nowadays, I can't see further than my arm's length. And it comes down to pure negligence.

It wasn't always this way. In the past, we cared more.

Yet what we saw between the 1980s and 1990s was a concrete and overwhelming change for the worse.

When I was working on the seas in the early nineties, you started to see people toss more and more of their waste and garbage into the water.

The dumping of septic tanks also became more and more common, and routine.

And when fishing nets got broken, you'd see people just leave them to drift in the sea. The damage we've done is grave.


(Credit: Econyl)

According to the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) more than six million tonnes of junk is dumped into our waters every year.

The charity World Animal Protection says entanglement in so-called 'ghost gear' - abandoned fishing equipment - kills at least 136,000 seals, sea lions and large whales every year.

They add that an 'inestimable number of birds, turtles, fish and other species are also injured and killed.'

Like many others, I couldn't just sit and watch and do nothing. I knew I wanted to help make a difference.

But what could I actually do...?

Since 2007, a small portion of this deadly plastic has been collected by the 'Healthy Seas' initiative, which aims to turn waste into wear.

Fishing nets - both salvaged from the ocean floor and from commercial fish farms - and other industrial plastic waste, is collected and turned into a special yarn through a process called 'depolymerisation' by an Italian firm called Aquafil.

And now myself, and my company co-founders, are using this material to make....underwear. We're literally saying 'pants' to pollution!

At the moment the impact we're making is small. But we want others to follow suit and start using sustainable, ecological fabric because without it we'll continue to damage one of the world's greatest assets.

It's estimated there's already 640,000 tons of discarded fishing nets in the oceans. Without more awareness, that figure will only rise.

These fishing nets remain adrift for a substantial amount of time and are responsible for the accidental capture of whales, turtles, birds and other marine mammals.

And the world's 'fast-fashion' culture is also contributing to the problem.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, 15.1 million tons of textile waste is generated yearly, of which 12.8 million tons were discarded.

Ethical production, and buying habits, can be a counter-reaction to stupid political decisions.

We want to be a brand who gives something back - and it's our view that other firms should too.