HAVANA TIMES — Pizza sellers in Cuba’s southern city of Cienfuegos have decided to use salted crackers to replace disposable pieces of paper or cardboard enabling customers to carry this food item in their hand when it comes straight out of the oven.
The “solution” was adopted on May 7th when the Municipal Council (CAM) announced a “provisional” on the sale of pizzas served on paper to the population.”
The ban only applies to the downtown San Carlos and Paseo del Prado streets, two of the city’s pedestrian and commercial streets. Cienfuegos is located 210 kms southeast from Havana.
This ruling, signed by CAM Secretary, Diana Serpa Diaz, also authorizes “business owners to find variations and alternatives which make possible the sale of this product, which is in high popular demand, without putting the license in jeopardy.”
And that’s what pizza sellers did, they looked for alternatives, to satisfy customers who don’t have the time to sit down and eat something which makes up the Cuban people’s basic diet especially, because pizzas are quick to make and relatively cheap.
The well-known “salted crackers”, sold at IDEAL markets nationwide, which belong to the National Commerce Ministry, have proven to be quite useful as “thermal insulators”, vendors point out.
One immediate consequence of this new use of wheat crackers as bits of paper or cardboard has been that pizza prices have suddenly gone up, a marguerite costing 7 Cuban pesos (CUP) approximately 0.35 USD has now gone up to 10 pesos (CUP).
“We have to factor in the price of the crackers,” one of the pizza sellers we consulted said in defense, who preferred to remain anonymous.
However, that same salesman didn’t have an answer for what happens if customers bring their own thermal insulator (for example, napkins), would they get a discount and pay the original price of 7 pesos.
The Cienfuegos Municipal Council’s decision wants to put an end to a situation which was causing unrest among locals: the increase in bits of paper strewn across the ground of main avenues, where thousands of people travel every day.
The traditional image of “Cuba’s cleanest city” has been compromised in recent years due to a significant increase in not only paper on the ground, but also from leaky sewers, which were built in the first half of the 20th century for a city with nearly 50,000 inhabitants less.
However, they didn’t decide to install more public garbage bins, or to tell the local government’s own officials that they need to demand city residents to throw paper from their food into bags and cardboard boxes located near these pizzerias.
The provisional ruling apparently aims at “cutting the problem down” before it appears.
Nevertheless, as well as the discontent and disbelief among customers and sellers along Cienfuegos’ Prado, the measure doesn’t seem to have been effective, as our camera was able to capture left-over crackers on the ground, just like bits of paper and cardboard were left which led to this measure in the first place.
Although it’s true that these crackers will probably biodegrade much faster than the cellulose products they seek to replace, as rats, ants and cockroaches, which live in sewers and on sidewalks here in the city they call the Pearl of the South, can ingest these more easily.