Since the 80s, on the coast of Iroise in Brittany, France, people have been finding fragments of orange novelty Garfield phones such as receivers, keypads, phone cords, and the feline heads strewn along the beach. Local beachcombers would pick up the orange plastic parts, only to find more of them a few days later. The Garfield phone fragments continued to wash up on the beaches for 18 years, according to Claire Simonin, head of the beach cleanup group, Ar Viltansou, in Brittany. Finally, a local man informed Simonin that he had discovered a shipping container filled with Garfield phones wedged in a sea cave in the mid-80s after a storm.

Last March, volunteers waited for right tide conditions for the sea cave to be accessible, hoping to find a shipping container filled with Garfield phones. After a treacherous climb, at the entrance of the cave, under boulders, the volunteers found 23 phone handsets along with pieces of the phones scattered on the rocks. They climbed down a fissure that was 100 feet deep, and at the bottom, they saw the remains of the shipping container. Unfortunately, the shipping container was empty. The Garfield phones highlight a much bigger problem - the issue of plastic pollution. Each year, between 4.8 and 12.7 million tons of plastic manages to enter our oceans. Plastics degrade into microparticles, bits of debris less than 5 millimeters long, which are eaten by marine life. Eventually, the plastic particles make their way into the food chain to humans. Some scientists have predicted by the year 2050, there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish. So now we’re at a point that each one of us has a responsibility to make a difference. We must stop using throwaway single-use plastic items: water bottles, plastic cutlery, party cups, straws, and coffee lids. We can choose household cleaning products packaged in cardboard instead of plastic such as laundry detergent and dishwasher detergent, and avoid any products with excessive packaging. We can buy bulk items and bring our own bags to fill. It wasn’t very long ago we existed without all this plastic, we can definitely do it again!

The next time you get the chance to buy something made out of plastic, ask yourself if it something you really need.