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. Byrd

    The republicans apparently have one goal and one goal only: To make America and Earth uninhabitable for future generations as fast as humanly possible.

    March 2, 2011 08:06 am at 8:06 am |
  2. Indy

    Typical Republican power trip that wlll be part of "Taking Back America" to the 60's. Styrofoam has been banned in most places since the 90's for health reasons and degradability issues. As far as the utensils breaking, it is Not against the law to bring your own utensils to the office like millions of others do. Where were these Republican idiots when Bush was running the economy into oblivion ? This is just another sickening attempt to puff their chests out and do anything but create jobs. Republicans will be the ruin of America without a doubt.

    March 2, 2011 08:11 am at 8:11 am |
  3. Dave B.

    If Republicans love God, why don't they love the Earth? God made us stewards of the Earth. Republicans must hate the earth because they are ignoring each and every very clear sign that we are destroying it. Republicans don't love God. They love destruction and the king of all lies: the devil. The truth hurts doesn't it? And heresy has its punishments as well. Have fun in the lake of fire you right-wing antichrists.

    March 2, 2011 08:15 am at 8:15 am |
  4. Dan

    Republicans. Petty, bitter people who don't understand the phrase "leading by example."

    March 2, 2011 08:28 am at 8:28 am |
  5. informed voter

    Leave it to the Republicans to try and turn the clock back. Yeah, let's bring back styrofoam, back ally abortions, slave labor wages and work practices, Jim Crow laws (as Gov. Barbour said: it wasn't so bad). Let's move our country back to the stone age when we didn't have a deficit and pale faced men ruled unchallenged.

    March 2, 2011 08:35 am at 8:35 am |
  6. Zach

    This is absurd. How an entire room full of Congressional members can't come up with an eco-friendly eating and drinking plan is BEYOND me. In the next few years this country is going to HAVE to address climate change and its outrageous consumption based economy. It is the gravest issue we've faced since WWII and directly influences everything including national security, healthy, and economic well being. We are failing to wake up and take this seriously and as a result are losing precious time. Get it TOGETHER people. If we do we can once again become a country who sets a positive trend that has a domino effect across the globe.

    March 2, 2011 08:37 am at 8:37 am |
  7. mike5790

    Styrofoam takes orders of magnitude less energy and water PER cup than paper cups to make. If people realized how many chemicals, how much water, and how much energy; including the wastewater generated, nobody would think paper cups are green, they aren't even greener that Styrofoam. And, if people were willing, it has a recycle (#6) code. If you do the life-cycle analysis, AND really want to be green, you'd use Styrofoam and recycle it. Same thing goes with plastic bags versus paper, if you don't use re-usable bags, using plastic bags and recycling them has much much less footprint. And if we're creating landfills, food and yard waste is just about the only non-toxic thing that go into landfills. If you want to really make a difference, send the food and yard waste to landfills which become composting centers, and recycling processing centers. If it can't be recycled nearly infinitely, it's not green, and you're just deluding yourself. But Styrofoam's main problem is that it is SO cheap and has such a small footprint that it is hard to find a place to recycle it. But it's not the Styrofoam's problem, that's OUR problem.

    March 2, 2011 08:47 am at 8:47 am |
  8. RdclCntrst

    This is just childish. Kind of the same way it was childish for Pres. Reagan to take down the solar panels on the White House just as soon as he could. It says "I care more about undoing what my opponent wants to do than I do about the issue", in this case, the environment. I don't even believe that it costs less to use Styrofoam, since Styrofoam is produced by Dow Chemical, a major Republican donor; even if it is slightly more expensive, NOT producing more trash easily makes up for the cost; landfill and environmental repair, where they can even be done, are expensive.

    March 2, 2011 09:00 am at 9:00 am |
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