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Activists solve 30-year mystery of Garfield phones washing up on French beaches

media 'Garfield' phones displayed on the beach on 28 March 2019 in Plouarzel, … Spare parts of plastic 'Garfield' phones are displayed on the beach in Plouarzel, western France, 28 March 2019 AFP / Fred TANNEAU

For over three decades, bright orange pieces of plastic Garfield phones have been washing up on beaches in northern France. Locals suspected that the phones came from a container that fell off a ship in the 1980s. This week, thanks to a beach clean-up group, they found out they were right.

"Our association has existed for 18 years and in that time we have found pieces of Garfield telephones almost each time we clean," said Claire Simonin, the head of local beach cleaning group Ar Viltansou in Brittany.

Recent media coverage of the pieces washing up on shore sparked the memory of a local farmer, who remembered going to look for a shipping container after a storm in the mid-1980s.

He led Simonin to the spot where he and his brother had found it, but it was a cave only accessible at low tide.

This week, the tides allowed for an expedition to the 30-metre deep crevice, where they found remnants of a shipping container, and scattered pieces, like on the beach, along with 23 complete handsets under rocks at the entrance.

But where the container came from remains a mystery. There is no information on what ship it came from or if there were more containers. Container ships from Asia and elsewhere travel past France’s north-western coast as they head to the major European ports including Calais, Antwerp or Rotterdam.

And the problem of plastic pieces washing on shore remains as well.

The phone pieces highlight the problem of plastic pollution. Some forecasts predict that there will be more plastic in the seas than fish by 2050.

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