The biggest offender when it comes to plastic pollution will likely surprise you

Ben Lecomte

AUCKLAND, New Zealand (PRNewswire) — Single use plastic is the most obvious of offenders when we consider ocean plastic pollution.

Yet the biggest source of plastic pollution is something that might not be front of mind: our clothes.

Over 35 percent of the projected 1.5 million metric tonnes of microplastics found in the oceans come from synthetic textiles.

What’s even more concerning is the plastic microfibres shed from clothing are so small that they can’t be seen by the naked eye and marine life are ingesting them.

We are now finding traces of plastic microfibres in our food chain.

Washing clothing can release up to 700,000 synthetic microfibres per full load and are polluting our waterways.

New Zealand brand icebreaker believes nature provides the answers and for over 24 years has been developing natural fibre-based clothing. Natural fibres are more renewable, more sustainable and release far less synthetic microfibres when washed.

icebreaker believes that, with more information and research, we have the chance to reduce further plastic pollution to the planet. This month, icebreaker will partner with long-distance swimmer Ben Lecomte, to raise awareness of ocean plastic pollution and support research into the impact of synthetic fibres on our environment, through Move to Natural and The Vortex Swim. 

Move to Natural is a platform for people to raise awareness of topics that others will be able to learn from. Lecomte will swim 300 nautical miles through the plastic Vortex, representing the 300 million tonnes of plastic produced in the world each year.

Screenshot of the Vortex Swim, which you can follow on the Move to Natural website.

Commonly known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, the Vortex is the highest concentration of ocean plastic in the world, from large debris to plastic bags to microscopic fragments and fibres.

Move to natural and The Vortex Swim launched June 10 (click here to see Lecomte’s online journal) with an epic journey across the Pacific Ocean, setting  sail from Hawaii, and arriving in California in early September 2019.

A crew will explore and research the Vortex from Hawaii to California over a period of three months. Taking samples every 30 to 50 nautical miles, the crew will be the first expedition to provide an extensive, unified high-definition sampling on plastic pollution across the Pacific Ocean, forming the first trans-Pacific data set.

“As humans we all have the capacity to drive change, and the more we learn the more we can act and make positive choices,” said Chief Brand and Product Officer, Carla Murphy. “Everything we do is designed to move people closer to nature and closer to choosing natural alternatives.”

Lecomte shares icebreaker’s passion to challenge the status quo and people’s understanding of plastic.

“Microfibres are a growing problem because we don’t see them, but we now know that they are everywhere — we have very little knowledge of what impact they have on the human body,” Lecomte said. “But we know the cause of it – mostly the clothes that we wash. So anything that can provide a solution to that — alternatives to synthetics, such as natural fabric — is the way to go.”

To be closer to the expedition and part of the movement, icebreaker will create a platform for communication and participation allowing consumers to join the movement to natural. People can follow and get involved in these ways:

  • Learn more and follow Ben’s progress at movetonatural.com
  • Share your message of support and spread the word about plastic pollution research on social media using the hashtags #thevortexswim #movetonatural.
  • Act. 100 percent of plastic in the ocean, including the plastic microfibres from our clothing, is a result of us. Together we are accountable.
  • Support the crew in September by wearing a limited-edition icebreaker x The Vortex Swim hat and 100% merino T-shirt, with funds donated from the capsule supporting research into plastic pollution in the Pacific Ocean.

The Vortex crew will collect samples each day for a range of scientific organizations to contribute to data on plastic pollution in the ocean. This will include:

  • Placing trackers on large debris to follow their movement in the ocean’s currents.
  • Observing marine life — from microorganisms to large pelagic animals – as they interact with the plastic debris.
  • Filtering for microplastics and microfibres that are undetectable to the human eye – but have the potential to negatively impact the health of humans and the environment.


Ben Lecomte was the first person to swim across the Atlantic Ocean without a kickboard in 1998 to support cancer research in memory of his late father. He was the first person to attempt a stage swim across the Pacific Ocean in 2018 to raise awareness of plastic pollution, called The Swim.

Struck by the amount of debris and microplastics found during the six-month expedition, he and his crew were inspired to do more to help the state of our oceans and to encourage people to say no to single-use plastic.

It also spurred them on to further explore the Vortex. Ben is now attempting a 300 nautical mile swim through the area of pollution commonly known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.


Founded by Jeremy Moon in 1995 in New Zealand, icebreaker pioneered the ethical and sustainable production of natural performance apparel.

icebreaker is sold in more than 5,000 stores in 50 countries through wholesale, icebreaker retail stores and e-commerce platforms.


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