Monday, 7 February 2011

Disposable Catering

:::PS: in the process of changing my blog template the comments feature has disappeared. I've enabled them now but have to repost so it takes effect. I had a thought provoking comment on my facebook account which I'll add to the debate and if you couldn't comment before, hopefully you can now:::

Every week I spent far too much time in the catering provided in Glasgow City Council facilities. The catering is outsourced to a private company, Encore catering. You'll find them in museums, sport centres and generally all Culture and Leisure Services establishments. Of course, Culture and Leisure Services is no longer part of Glasgow City Council in an attempt to half privatise non-essential services.

Anyway, this is what tickled my funny bone. A bit of context, I had a tea and a cake while Cubling and hubby went for a swim (I didn't go with Snowflake because I'm a bit paranoid now about infections and she hasn't had all her vaccinations yet. Instead I had a bit of lovely one-to-one time with her and me time while she napped. I even read a book, imagine.)

A cupa and a cake, right? Rubbish produced: one disposable cup, 5 empty milk containers, 2 empty sugar containers, one disposable plastic plate, one plastic spoon, one teabag.

I do appreciate that washing plates is time consuming and that kids occasionally break them. I also appreciate that it's safer to serve hot drinks to people with babies in paper cups.


Isn't this health and safety gone too far? Snowflake was in her car seat so there was no immediate danger I'd pour my tea over her. In my mind I imagined the daily amount of waste this approach must  produce. Waste that will cost the council an arm and a leg in landfill charge (because cardboard can't be recycled here, and neither can the plastic used in the plates and milk containers). Surely the council, and associated companies, should lead the way in reducing waste? Instead, as far as cafe style catering goes, Encore Catering uses a comparatively excessive amount of disposable items. More than, say, Morrisons or Ikea, who at least serve the food and drink in real cups.

Why this excess of disposable materials in a large chain? Is it to cut corners and reduce washing up? Does it reduce space needed? Surely so much disposable stuff needs space too, and with industrial type dishwashers I don't get how this can be a time issue, after all other cafes wash their dishes too.

Is it about safety and breakage, considering that many of such cafes are frequented by families and children will break the occasional plate?

I'd like to know, so will ask them. Maybe this needs to be raised from a few users of these cafes and they may change? I for one have a bit of a dilemma in that on the one hand I'm trying to live more sustainably, and I'm at least twice a week, sometimes more often, all my home efforts are outrubbished by having to significantly contribute to landfill just by having a cuppa.

And don't get me started on kid's lunch boxes (you know the cardboard boxes marketed at kids?).


Anonymous said...

The alternative uses resources too... The plate and cup made from clay needs mined, moulded/spun, fired, glazed, fired again, (probably by poorly paid workers in the developing world with sub standard working conditions) then shipped around... the world (an injection moulded one (Ikea style) might be better but is basically made from oil). All that uses energy - and quite a lot of it. Then as you say they inevitably have a limited life - one which the average customer and minimum wage employee is not that bothered about preserving.

The plate then needs to go in a dishwasher (almost certainly no catering establishment is hand washing dishes) which uses a lot of water, and energy as well as some "chemicals", the machine itself having required more natural resources and energy to be built.

Milk in a jug won't waste several little pots, but will still have a big carton behind the counter that ultimately gets binned. In the process milk also gets wasted. Wasted milk means more cost, but also more cows which produce more methane.

Your paper plates and cups, actually consumed carbon dioxide and thus at a very simplistic level are better than china crockery.

However I suspect that the reason for so much throw away stuff is nothing to do with the environment or health and safety - its quite simply economics. Resusing crockery required staff to separate it, wash it etc. Would you happily pay more for your 'culinery experience' if it came at this extra cost? I suspect most of your fellow customers wouldn't.

Kat - Housewife Confidential said...

Not keen on the black background - sorry but makes reading hard!

cartside said...

Kat, your wish is my command ;) I like the black but I'm not sure and to mix it with red is no good. Still working on the design, not entirely happy yet.
First I need to fix the comments they are still missing (why oh why???)



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