Message in a Plastic Bottle


Click here to view the award-winning film “Message in a Plastic Bottle,” that documents this unique expedition.

In the spring of 2014, the Ikkatsu Project’s Ken Campbell took a voyage through his home waters, a trip designed to raise awareness of the importance and fragility of Puget Sound. The Sound is a place of great natural beauty and for the people who live in the area, it is something that defines the region in a way that nothing else does. Those of us who are fortunate enough to call western Washington “home,” know how much Puget Sound means to us, but we may not be entirely aware of all that it provides.

Using a kayak constructed out of discarded single-use plastic bottles, Campbell paddled 150 miles from Olympia to Bellingham, through the heart of the most productive estuary on the west coast of the United States. Along the way, he participated in beach cleanup efforts organized by local environmental groups and parks departments as well asOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA gave presentations related to the issues that are facing Puget Sound here in the 21st century. The Ikkatsu Project will be continuing its research on marine debris along our shoreline and collecting water samples for ongoing microplastics studies.

But this is not the kind of project that is done by any one group and it is hardly a solo effort. The Ikkatsu Project was able to partner with dedicated organizations like the Surfrider Foundation and the Suquamish tribe’s Chief Kitsap Academy, as well as a host of others, in an effort to get the word out about the dangers of plastics in the marine environment, especially single-use bottles and bags. With consistent daily media updates and a paddling schedule that took Campbell past some of the most populated areas in the state, the expedition generated a great deal of thoughtful discussion as it progressed. It was a great experience, and there were numerous opportunities for the public to get involved in a variety of different ways.

The Hyas yiem was made using plastic bottles for all its floatation. “It took about 450 bottles to build the completed kayak,” says Campbell, “which may seem like a lot at first, but when you consider that in this country, we go through 1500 bottles of water every second, it doesn’t seem like such a big number after all.”

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHyas yiem is a Chinook term that translates as “telling a tale,” a name chosen for several different reasons. It is a term that reminds us of the history that has taken place here in Puget Sound, and the different peoples that have called this place home. As a language, Chinook was used to bridge different cultures; it was often used in trade and discussions between people who otherwise would have not been able to communicate. The things that the Hyas yiem has to tell us are realities that affect all of us, regardless of who we are, and it is important that we find a way to be able to talk about them more effectively.

Beginning in Olympia on April 12th, 2014, and concluding in Bellingham on May 17th, 2014, the voyage of the Hyas yiem carried with it different messages for all of us who value Puget Sound, including the message that single-use plastic packaging is a wasteful convenience that our environment can no longer afford.


Media coverage: Skagit Valley Herald

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