Anti-litter volunteers in a French coastal community have spent 35 years collecting bright orange plastic debris on local beaches. The pieces once formed bright orange novelty landline phones in the shape of Garfield, the famous cartoon cat, but their source was a mystery.
First found as litter in the 1980s, hundreds of complete Garfield phones, still vintage collectibles today, as well as Garfield phone pieces have been washing up along a 15 mile stretch of the French beach for decades. As many as 200 Garfield’s sea-faring parts were discovered strewn across France’s beaches just last year with no explanation for their source.
The most common theory was that the phones were on a container ship and somehow found their way into the water. The mystery may have lasted even longer had local anti-litter group, Ar Vilantsou, not made the Garfield phone a symbol of plastic pollution on their beaches.
Launching the Garfield phones as the face of their media campaign this year, the campaign alerted a local farmer who recalled the first phone appearing after a storm when he was a young man and figured he knew the location of the container carrying the phones.
He guided a rock climbing team to a container grounded in a sea cave that could only be reached at low tide, rammed between rocks, and proving to be inaccessible. Orange plastic was seen under the rocks being washed by successive tides until freed to land on the beaches. Unfortunately, the destroyed container remains buried underneath the rocks meaning the orange debris will continue to wash up on shore.
Locals will have to continue to clean the orange plastic waste for many more years to come. Being made of plastic, they’ll most likely outlast us all, much like the classic cartoon itself.