A Sad Day for Breakfast Choices

I ride the BC Ferries quite often.  Grant’s family lives on the island, and my family has a cabin over there. Inevitably, Grant and I are too disorganized to pack some food, and we end up eating on the ferry.  It’s actually not so bad.  I appreciate the fact that you can get breakfast on a real plate and eat it with real cutlery. They also serve a pretty mean burger and clam chowder.

But here’s the thing that gets me. Despite the “real plate” options, there is a ton of packaging. The cooler is stocked with a lot of pre-packaged food – salads in clamshells, cheesecake with a plastic ramekin of berry sauce, plastic wrapped sandwiches. You have to be vigilant and strategic to avoid waste.

For example, by the beverages, the stack of paper cups is prominently displayed while the ceramic mugs are tucked to the side.  I’d estimate one in 30 people actually use a reusable mug.  But why?  It’s not like anyone’s going anywhere.  You can’t wander off the ship with your mug; we’re in the middle of the ocean. Why even have a disposable option?

Don’t get me wrong, BC Ferries is doing a lot of good things.  They compost all their kitchen scraps and have paper and bottle recycling prominently displayed.  These things make a big difference, but this morning I was truly disappointed with my breakfast choices.  Today was the day I discovered that all the muffins and scones and baked good that used to be served in baskets are now prepackaged in plastic.

Obviously baked goods were out, and I only had $5 (not enough for eggs), so as I stood in the cafeteria line, I debated between plain oatmeal (the sugar and milk were in plastic cups) and dry toast (same thing with the jam and peanut butter). I chose the former and took some milk from the bulk coffee dispenser, ending up with a decent (if slightly flavourless) breakfast.

Then I stopped by the chief steward’s office to see what was up with the excessive plastic wrap.

It seems that recently (back when the goodies came in baskets) people suddenly got all caught up with the H1N1 virus and stopped buying the unpackaged baked goods. More than that, they were actually taking time to complain that things weren’t packaged. The staff got constant complaints from people reporting that other people were breathing on the scones and coughing on the muffins. No one would buy them.  So, the ferries started wrapping everything in plastic, and, lo and behold, people bought them again.

So what’s going on?  Are we as a population over-reacting, or am I personally just way too lax about possible contamination?  Who are these people lobbying to get more plastic wrap on their food?  I have never seen anyone sneeze on anything in a bc ferries display case, but when I voiced my excessive plastic concerns, I was told straight up that I was in the minority.

It got me thinking that maybe those of us who want things package-free ought to speak up more often instead of just quietly making choices and sitting in the corner, eating our plain oatmeal.

6 Comments

Filed under food, packaging

6 responses to “A Sad Day for Breakfast Choices

  1. Mairi Welman

    I have been quietly steaming for years about the overuse of “disposable” cups on BC Ferries. And have you noticed that you can’t fit your travel mug under the spigot on their Starbucks espresso machines in the cafe? Very frustrating.
    I hadn’t noticed all the food packaging because I have a penchant for BC Ferries eggs & bacon (I know, it’s bad for me, believe me, my husband reminds me every time) , so I rarely look at the stuff in the coolers.
    In regards to hygene concerns, I have noticed over the last few years that there are stark differences between cultures in that area. People who have recently arrived from highly populated countries where everything is individually packaged and every toilet seat is covered and re-covered in fresh plastic and people wear face masks have a much lower tolerance for risk of contamination of any kind.
    My mother, who was a nurse for over 30 years, always told me there isn’t a thing you can catch from a toilet seat except a cold bum. But people don’t believe it.

  2. Jen

    HA! I rant about the same stuff! I can’t stand all the clingy wrap on the baked goods. Perhaps if they put them behind a glass display and have some of their overpaid staff dole them out, or get one of those clear dome toppers, people will magically think they are “cleaner”. The psychology of food is amazing. Its like this hysteria about babies must only drink boiled cooled water. While that might be the truth for other areas, we live in an area where the tap water is un-freaking-real and so I’ve never gotten the logic there. My nearly-2 boy drinks tap water and always has. I’ve actually been told I might be compromising his health. I want to say “yeah, but he also licks dog food off the floor. Whatevs.” Good post!

  3. Oh Jen, this is huge. I’ve been pondering the same thing a lot lately. When does “Food Safety” become an obsession, when does it go too far? When does trying to protect ourselves mean we end up doing the opposite, and how can we satisfy both the requirement of being green and of being safe?

    I don’t know the answers yet, but I don’t believe that plastic wrap is the way to go, that’s for sure!

  4. The last time I rode the ferry, I paid extra to sit in a little lounge where they served a little breakfast buffet of coffee/tea/juice, fruit, cheese and pastries (muffins, etc). I don’t remember what we paid ($10?), but it was worth it for the snacks and relative peace and quiet.

    • I’m glad to hear that others feel the same way!
      Rebecca – I’ve never been in the lounge (although we have it lined up as a birthday treat), but it seems very relaxing, and the prospect of unlimited muffins is definitely appealing.
      Jen – that’s interesting about the clear dome topper – I too would think it’s cleaner. . . .but I’m not sure why – it’s hardly bacteria protection. . . maybe no flies can land on it?
      Margery – I don’t know the answer either. maybe less self serve and more human served? I know, I know, it’s all economics.
      Mairi – True, I think it has a lot to do with your upbringing.

  5. Sara

    I just rode the ferry last week and also freaked about the packaged goodies. I didn’t say anything because I had not planned on buying any and because I was with my brother and one of his friends who would not have gotten it. Usually I like to inquire so that they know people care.

    After reading this blog post, I went to:
    http://www.bcferries.com/contact_us/Interactive_Feedback.html
    and provided some feedback. Let them know your thoughts. Don’t let the germ freeks win this one, our health will be more impacted over the longrun from overuse of plastics and production of waste than from a few coughing cookie buyers.

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