For 30 years, residents of a seaside town in France have watched as one peculiar item continued to wash ashore. Bright orange pieces of plastic were constantly littering the beach, and these weren't any ordinary pieces of plastic, they were remnants of Garfield phones. This grumpy cat exploded in popularity in the 1980s thanks to cartoonist Jim Davis' comic strip, and these phones were manufactured in large quantities during that time. But how did they end up in France?
A few years ago, volunteers from a local anti-litter group, Ar Vilantsou, set out to uncover the mystery. And thanks to a local farmer, they finally got their answer. René Morvan led Claire Simonin-Le Meur, the group's president, to a cave on the cliffs of Brittany. Morvan recalled seeing the phones in the 1980s not long after a storm swept the area. He and his brother then set out to explore caves and, nestled deep within one, found a shipping container filled with Garfield phones.
“You had to really know the area well,” Morvan shared. “We found a container aground in a fissure. It was open. Many of the things were gone, but there was a stock of phones.” Morvan, who was 19 or 20 at the time, never told anyone what he and his brother had discovered, and so the mystery continued until he came forward in 2019.
At that point, volunteers from Ar Vilantsou set out to find the container, but it wasn't easy. They had to time the tides just right in order to go deep enough into the cave to find the shipping container. Eventually, they were able to locate it, but it was empty. Even though plastic pieces and wires were stuck in the rocks and continued to wash ashore, anything that had been inside the container had been washed away by the tide.
Though this was disappointing for Le Meur, who was hoping that they could collect phones before they got into the ocean, she's using the story of the Garfield phones to raise awareness. Plastic pollution continues to be a global problem, with an estimated 14 million tons of plastic ending up in the ocean each year. And every year between 700 and 1,000 shipping containers are lost at sea, bringing with them merchandise that ends up on the ocean floor.
A coastal town in France has been finding pieces of Garfield phones from the 1980s on shore for decades.
The pieces come from a shipping container hidden in a cliffside cave. The shipping container was lost during a storm over 30 years ago.