Phone Mystery

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TELEPHONE TRASH: A plastic Garfield phone on a beach in France

JIM MCMAHON/MAPMAN®

For decades, people along France’s northwest coast have pondered a mystery: Why do plastic phones shaped like the cartoon cat Garfield keep washing up on local beaches? Recently, an environmental group cracked the case. They located a shipping container in a cave. It had been swept off a cargo ship in the 1980s, and has been dribbling phones into the sea ever since.

Plastic objects, like the phones, don’t break down easily. So they can stick around as pollution for a long time. “This is an example of why plastics can be bad for the environment,” says Matthew Savoca, an ecologist at Stanford University in California.

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