In February the CCC wrote a response to an editorial in this newsletter. The Western news (Feb 15th p. 5) also ran an article about the Wishbone cafe in our new community centre. This is a further response to those articles.
In the Western News, Wishbone felt that they were being blamed for a decision by Council to award them a lease. The major issue here is not with Wishbone per se but with processes that the CCC uses to award leases. There are problems with the fact that a café that does not employ local people in the food preparation, packs everything in plastic and flies and drives much of it around the country can get a lease in a CCC facility. There are grounds for protesting about any cafe with these kinds of practices. It is interesting that the CCC have provided no explanation of their own practice and instead diverted the discussion away onto the operation of Wishbone itself.
Christchurch has many potential local providers who could provide a service that helps to employ Christchurch people and that have less impact on our environment. However even cafes already in CCC facilities were not made aware of the tender being open. It would not be unreasonable for the tender process to include some efforts to engage local business.
“Recyclable” and "Biodegradable"
Both the CCC response and the Wishbone article suggested that the plastic packaging is ok because it is recyclable and Wishbone also say it is biodegradable. This seems very likely to be another way to divert the discussion away from the actual issues. They look a lot like good ways to make us all think the wrapping is environmentally sound when in fact it is very doubtful this is the case!
Neither the CCC nor Wishbone suggest that the packaging used by Wishbone is actually recycled. Many recyclable plastics cannot be easily recycled in Christchurch. Furthermore, if they are put into the recycling, they contaminate other products sent off for recycling.
Plastic that goes to recycling needs to be larger than a yoghurt container, and to have a recycle number on it and needs to be clean, according to the CCC waste management team. The question is does Wishbone clean and sort its waste and do they have a special arrangement for getting it recycled? Furthermore, how does each customer find a place to recycle the plastic if they take the food away. There would seem to be a high change that much of the wrapping goes directly to landfill.
Biodegradable does not mean that you can put packaging into the compost heap. In general biodegradable plastic will only break the plastic down into lots of small pieces that make it more polluting rather than less so (unless it can be recycled of course!). Biodegradable does not necessarily mean breaking down into non toxic or non polluting products.
It is a pity that the CCC staff involved appear to be trying to avoid the issues by diverting attention away from the concerns that were initially expressed.