Styrofoam makes a comeback in House cafeterias
March 1st, 2011
09:47 PM ET
3 years ago

Styrofoam makes a comeback in House cafeterias

Washington (CNN) – An old standard is being reintroduced in cafeterias throughout the Capitol: Styrofoam cups.

A little over a month after taking control of the House, Republicans have changed a pivotal element of Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi's "Green the Capitol" initiative. Since 2007, non-recyclable, Styrofoam cups were replaced with environmentally friendly biodegradable cups.

The reappearance of Styrofoam cups is one move towards phasing out Pelosi's program, which brought climate-friendly vending machines and compact fluorescent light bulbs to the Capitol. The plan successfully reduced energy consumption by 23 percent and water consumption by 32 percent throughout Capitol buildings, according to an April 2010 report.

One of the most controversial steps towards eco-friendliness was the unveiling of compostable utensils and takeout trays in House cafeterias. Staffers complained that the sensitive material of the utensils made them vulnerable to frequent breakage.

The composting program of Pelosi's green initiative cost taxpayers $475,000 annually, according to Salley Wood, spokesman for the Committee on House Administration, who added that the entire initiative cost millions annually.

In response to reemergence of Styrofoam cups, Pelosi tweeted Monday evening, "#SoBelt GOP brings back Styrofoam & ends composting-House will send 535 more tons to landfills #TalkAboutGovtWaste."

In response to the phasing out of Pelosi's green initiative, Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Steve Israel issued the following statement:

"Evidently the Republican economic strategy for jobs is one word: 'Styrofoam.' In two months they haven't created a single job, but they have boldly brought Styrofoam cups back to the congressional cafeterias. At least the 700,000 Americans whose jobs the Republican budget eliminates can sleep better at night knowing that the Republicans have made the world safe for Styrofoam."

Rep. Dan Lungren, R-California, chairman of the House Administration Committee, ordered the composting program into suspension.

"After a thorough review of the House's composting operations, I have concluded that it is neither cost effective nor energy efficient to continue the program," Lungren said last month.

After a review, Lungren concluded that the plan was failing to meet its primary objectives, Wood said.

A pilot program that will test the feasibility of using reusable dishware in the Rayburn House office building's cafeteria is scheduled to begin in a couple of weeks, Wood added.


Filed under: Dan Lungren • Nancy Pelosi
soundoff (33 Responses)
  1. Former GOPer

    The Republicans are a sad, sorry lot if this is all they can do.

    March 1, 2011 10:01 pm at 10:01 pm |
  2. Freedom

    Thank you GOP! Let us continue cutting the debt. GOP 2012!

    March 1, 2011 10:05 pm at 10:05 pm |
  3. Wally Balloo

    As long as "green" efforts are measured by the money they save, or by how much they cost, the effort will be futile. Green will always cost more, because we have worked so long on doing things on the cheap (ie – disposable), anything else will cost more.

    March 1, 2011 10:11 pm at 10:11 pm |
  4. usualone

    Gosh, anything the Democrats have done, the Republicans will undo, whether it makes sense or not.

    March 1, 2011 10:13 pm at 10:13 pm |
  5. Teddy

    First of all, It cost taxpayers a fraction of a penny each for this initiative. For a cleaner, greener capitol, it's money well spent. Second of all, the fact that this kind of initiative costs taxpayers money UP FRONT is misleading. Yes, we are $475,000 lighter right now. But, IN THE LONG RUN, reducing energy consumption by 23 percent will SAVE MONEY, and REDUCE the deficit. The same argument can be made for other proposed budget cuts; if you lay off state workers, it may save money in the short-term. But, it will also lead more people to file for unemployment, which will put more of a strain on the government. So, let's not be sucked into the allure of cutting the budget because in the long-term, it will create more bad than good.

    March 1, 2011 10:16 pm at 10:16 pm |
  6. Dale

    It is a small detail. But it does show again that Republicans don't care about the environment, or frankly, anything but themselves.

    March 1, 2011 10:17 pm at 10:17 pm |
  7. John

    How petty and spiteful of the Republicans to do this. And oh so typical of them.

    March 1, 2011 10:27 pm at 10:27 pm |
  8. Moe NY

    Why do Republicans hate our environment? Pelosi's agenda was a good agenda. Seems to me that Republicans only want to destroy our enviroment. Guess Republicans think that harming the enviroment, especially with their support of corporations currently dumping on America....i.e. Koch brothers is acceptable.

    March 1, 2011 10:31 pm at 10:31 pm |
  9. LouAz

    What plates and untensils do the soldiers in Afghanistan have ? Congress should eat from the same till they come home. Styrofoam has something like a 1000 year half life. Will the Flat Earth Republicans and TPers be around that long ? Since Wall Street CEOs eat on fine China with Sterling Silver "utensils" then their lackeys in the House and Senate Cafeterias think they should too. You betcha !

    March 1, 2011 11:02 pm at 11:02 pm |
  10. Maxine Smith

    Why does this not surprise me...idiots..if this country does not step on the GREEN bandwagon, you are going to see huge job losses to India, China, and other countries already looking to move on this and the monies to be made. What I want to know is when are they going to dig into the cuts that fill their pockets with monies...

    March 1, 2011 11:27 pm at 11:27 pm |
  11. Steve in Denver

    Love that laser focus on jobs. Repeal health care without any replacement. Try to pass a law outlawing federal funds for abortion to duplicate the one already on the books. Degreen the capital.

    What, precisely, have you done to create jobs?

    March 1, 2011 11:41 pm at 11:41 pm |
  12. CaliforniaBC

    Well this shows two things. It shows how petty the republican are and it shows, at a symbolic leve, they care nothing about the environment. Pelosi's plans saved the tazpayers money and now the GOP is phasing them out (wasting more money due to the implementation costs) for no other reason but spite.

    It's pretty sad that they have learned nothing over the past wo years and continuing to act like children.

    March 1, 2011 11:43 pm at 11:43 pm |
  13. James

    A pilot program that will test the feasibility of using reusable dishware in the Rayburn House office building's cafeteria is scheduled to begin in a couple of weeks, Wood added.

    A pilot program to use 'reusable dishware and utensils'

    Apparently republicans haven't heard of metal utensils and porcelain dishware. LOL Pilot program. Wow.

    Garbage collectors and dishwashers. That's the job plan I guess. Oh wait.. no dishwashers, they haven't discovered that technology advance yet.

    March 1, 2011 11:44 pm at 11:44 pm |
  14. susan hubbard

    I love nancy pelosi. You can buy all the plastic you wish but her wish for a cleaner healthier environment will not change and neither will mine. Be happy with you cup whatever it is.

    March 1, 2011 11:56 pm at 11:56 pm |
  15. thies

    Can't our representatives be trusted with knives and forks made out of metal which can just be washed?

    March 2, 2011 12:18 am at 12:18 am |
  16. John

    The senate needs to lead by example. Styrofoam is made from subsidized oil. Its old technology and its bad for the environment. Shifting to organic is what a lot of leading companies are doing today. Its not much more expensive and the whole point is that it will be much cheaper when more companies convert.

    Of course if its is millions like the GOP says then dont do it – but its probably about the same. Whatever anyone says the Congress sets an example. If it was just about money – there is a very big office building looking for a tennant, four blocks north of the capital. Its cheap and the government could make millions using the current congress building for events and concerts. Sound silly – well it saves a lot of money.

    March 2, 2011 12:29 am at 12:29 am |
  17. Aaron

    I assume that the GOPers have stock in styrofoam producing companies. They're all about self-interest, so that would make the most sense.

    March 2, 2011 12:48 am at 12:48 am |
  18. Rev Mkell,

    When the GOP said that jobs were their #1 priority you didn't really think they were talking about jobs in this country did you?

    March 2, 2011 01:03 am at 1:03 am |
  19. Uncle Bully

    "Pelosi's program, which brought climate-friendly vending machines and compact fluorescent light bulbs to the Capitol. The plan successfully reduced energy consumption by 23 percent"

    Why would a republican want to reduce energy consumption?

    March 2, 2011 02:28 am at 2:28 am |
  20. Marie MD

    Why no styrofoam. If craig has the guts to walk those halls again after everything he did why not styrofoam. People have truly and really lost all sense of integrity.

    March 2, 2011 06:28 am at 6:28 am |
  21. Clay

    Way to go CNN!!! I knew I smelled typical CNN bias and ingenuousness and a general lack of journalistic credibility when I saw your cite in this story to "a report" touting the energy and water savings of Pelosi's program.

    After clicking the link, guess what I discovered? The "report" used to verify the veracity of the program was put together and reported by the program itself. What else is it going to say? Bootstrapping at its finest, akin to taking the word of the fox to diligently guard the henhouse.

    Nice work. At least you consistently perform up (down) to your standards.

    March 2, 2011 06:41 am at 6:41 am |
  22. Boba Phett

    So bold, so daring.

    So ineffective and useless.

    March 2, 2011 06:57 am at 6:57 am |
  23. Mike

    What if every congressman brought their own reusable plastic cup? Imagine how much that would save!

    March 2, 2011 06:59 am at 6:59 am |
  24. Katie

    Republicans haven't got a clue.

    March 2, 2011 07:12 am at 7:12 am |
  25. Robert

    Get your facts straight. Styrofoam is now and always has been recyclable.

    March 2, 2011 07:30 am at 7:30 am |
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