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Posted at 8:00 AM ET, 02/26/2011

Styrofoam cups, coming to a Capitol near you

By Felicia Sonmez

When the House returns Monday from a week-long recess, members and staffers will see something that hasn't been in the Capitol for four years: Styrofoam.

In the first move toward phasing out part of Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi's (D-Calif.) "Green the Capitol" program, polystyrene cups were reintroduced this week as an option for coffee drinkers in the Capitol Carry-Out, the building's mini-cafeteria.

The basement eatery had been part of Pelosi's "Greening" program since 2007, when Democrats took control of the House. The program brought climate-friendly vending machines and compact fluorescent lightbulbs to the Capitol; caused the Capitol Power Plant to switch from burning coal to natural gas; and reduced energy and water consumption in Capitol buildings by 23 percent and 32 percent, respectively, according to an April 2010 report.

But it was the $475,000 composting program in the House-side cafeterias that stirred the most controversy. Designed to cut down on waste, the program instituted the use of biodegradable utensils and trays made of cornstarch -- an idea that may have worked better in theory than in practice, as it led to take-away boxes that leaked, spoons that melted and forks that broke when stuck into so much as a chicken tender.

Rep. Dan Lungren (R-Calif.), chairman of the Committee on House Administration, announced last month that the program would be suspended indefinitely, contending that "it is neither cost-effective nor energy-efficient."

-- Staff writer Paul Kane contributed to this report

By Felicia Sonmez  | February 26, 2011; 8:00 AM ET
 
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Comments

Surely there was a better middle ground than styrofoam.

How many other green initiatives are going to be phased out?

Posted by: sarahabc | February 26, 2011 9:20 AM | Report abuse

"Designed to cut down on waste, the program instituted the use of biodegradable utensils and trays made of cornstarch -- an idea that may have worked better in theory than in practice, as it led to take-away boxes that leaked, spoons that melted and forks that broke when stuck into so much as a chicken tender."

What does any of this have to do with styrofoam cups? Almost every coffee shop out there now uses paper, which is SO much better for the environment - not made of petroleum, decomposes at all instead of never....

Posted by: lilduck79 | February 26, 2011 12:33 PM | Report abuse

Styrofoam cups return to the Capitol, as the Neanderthals take over.

Posted by: lowercaselarry | February 26, 2011 1:07 PM | Report abuse

Are they bringing back "Freedom Fries" too? How well did they work out?

Posted by: MarkT3 | February 26, 2011 1:25 PM | Report abuse

What do you expect from people who are too ignorant (AND too OWNED by the Koch Brothers) to understand the global destruction being caused by "Popullution"?

It's like expecting the Vatican to understand reproductive Biology!

Posted by: lufrank1 | February 26, 2011 2:39 PM | Report abuse

It never ceases to amaze me how liberals will adopt their own "morality" by raising a big stink about things like environmental issues (which I also believe in) but will fight the things related to true morality. I have heard these people will refuse to enter the house of someone that eats meat, eggs,
dairy, etc., but they have no problem killing unborn babies and other imnmoral acts.

Posted by: georgana | February 26, 2011 3:15 PM | Report abuse

Didn't Reagan remove the Solar Panels that Carter put on the White House Roof?
True? Or was this an Urban Legend?

Posted by: elyee | February 26, 2011 3:37 PM | Report abuse

Georgana - There are no "unborn babies." In order for there to be a baby, there has to be a birth. If you truly believe that there are "unborn babies," you had better not have any pictures of fetuses on your computer or your website. Because without any clothes, those images of "babies" could be considered child porn, and you could be prosecuted.

Posted by: MisterE2 | February 26, 2011 3:44 PM | Report abuse

georgiana, do you really KNOW for sure someone who refuses to enter another's house for that reason? I am vegan and have met hundreds of other vegans over the years. Most not only don't chide anybody over their diets but frequently wind up marrying someone who eats differently (and of course have other family members, coworkers & friends who do as well). I married a meat eater myself. Heck, almost every vegan I know goes to regular restaurants and orders the one vegan dish, so that blows your theory right there.

I've certainly never met anyone refuse to enter a house where people's diet is different than their own. For one, that would severely cripple their social network. For another, vegans generally become so out of concern for the welfare of other beings, not disdain of any sort.

I hope you will not repeat this rumor until you have some clear proof. And I assure you, that proof will be an exception and not the norm.

As you are interested in environmental concerns and, by extension, sustainable farming and eating, I also invite you to explore more about veganism at www.cok.net.

Posted by: sarahabc | February 26, 2011 3:58 PM | Report abuse

Surely there was a better middle ground than styrofoam.

How many other green initiatives are going to be phased out?

Posted by: sarahabc

------------------------------------------------------------------------

Pretty much all of them. There's a whole crop of regressives in power who have been trained to react to anything "green" that doesn't have a dead President on as liberal and therefore the spawn of Satan.

Posted by: washpost18 | February 26, 2011 4:13 PM | Report abuse

"the program instituted the use of biodegradable utensils and trays made of cornstarch -- an idea that may have worked better in theory than in practice, as it led to take-away boxes that leaked, spoons that melted and forks that broke when stuck into so much as a chicken tender."
____________________________________
I don't know precisely which utensils and trays they were using, but this certainly is not true of the cornstarch utensils and compostable trays we have in our cafeteria (Dept. of Labor). If anything, the utensils are better than the regular plastic utensils (I believe made out of polystyrene). The old steel flatware was the best - and all you had to do was wash it (much cheaper than recycling OR land-fill). But those days are long, long gone.

Posted by: luridone | February 26, 2011 4:59 PM | Report abuse

This article is fairly poorly written. There isn't any real information about the composting program. Was Rep. Lundgren accurate in claiming it was neither cost effective nor energy efficient? It would be interesting to have some data to back up the allegation--but that might require journalism instead of gossip...

Posted by: Lamentations | February 26, 2011 5:19 PM | Report abuse

I have had plastic knives and forks break when trying to eat chicken with them, so that is no reason to change the flatware. If the food containers did leak then someone needed to buy better, recyclable, containers. Several of our resturants here switched to recyclable food containers years ago with no problem. For anyone to allude that composting is not cost effective, compared to hauling that material to a landfill using even more non renewable resources to do so, indicates a considerable lack of knowledge.
Switching back to using products made of non renewable resources also indicates that those in leadership positions do not care for the environment and most likely will do what ever is possible to damage it even more.

Posted by: kimmsr | February 26, 2011 5:39 PM | Report abuse

That's the problem with "green" initiatives. They use more energy than they save.

Cloth diapers? You hurt the environment more than using disposables due to the hot water and detergent to clean them.

Hybrid cars? 800 lead battery ends up in a landfill someday. More energy to construct than a normal car.

Compact florescent bulbs? Mercury poison death bombs if the break in your home.

Posted by: RepealObamacareNow | February 26, 2011 7:15 PM | Report abuse

There are various facts which make the Styrofoam cups better than paper cups.
First of all the waste generated by the Styrofoam cups is lesser than that of paper coffee cups. The paper coffee cups are thinner than the Styrofoam coffee cups hence a person finds it difficult to hold very hot coffee in it.

Another misconception about the paper coffee cups is that they degenerate very quickly compared to other. Thus misconception is supported by the reason that they are manufactured from paper which is a renewable material. But as the reality, the modern landfills are made in such way that the air finds very difficult to penetrate through, hence the bi degradation of the paper cups or other things is purely impossible. Another economical factor about the Styrofoam cups is that, for manufacturing of the Styrofoam cups the materials used are very cheap and needed in fewer amounts than that of paper cups.

According to the study of the Canadian scientist Martin Hocking, the raw materials are utilized more for the manufacturing of the paper cups compared to that of Styrofoam cups. The raw material used for the manufacturing of paper cups are paper pulp, hence there is need of more water steam, hence more electricity and hat hence generating more lengthy and more expensive ways of manufacturing, that’s the drawback. In addition to this the printing of the names of the cafes on these paper cups make the whole process of manufacturing much expensive compared to that of the Styrofoam cups.

Another impacting fact is that the waste generated in the water during the manufacturing of paper cups is 40 times more than that of Styrofoam cups. Well, we all like to prefer the reusable mug which is best option, but if we don’t find this option also at that time the second best option is the use of Styrofoam cups. That is why I say the Styrofoam coffee cups look eco friendly to me.

Posted by: RepealObamacareNow | February 26, 2011 7:18 PM | Report abuse

Maybe instead of sitting around feeling good about themselves about trivia like styrofoam cups, the Democrats should have GOTTEN OUT THE VOTE last November!

Posted by: corco02az | February 26, 2011 7:56 PM | Report abuse

Styrofoam is cheaper and more ecologically sound:

http://1800recycling.com/2010/03/styrofoam-paper-cups/

Posted by: Fran5 | February 26, 2011 8:20 PM | Report abuse

This article is fairly poorly written. There isn't any real information about the composting program. Was Rep. Lundgren accurate in claiming it was neither cost effective nor energy efficient? It would be interesting to have some data to back up the allegation--but that might require journalism instead of gossip...

Posted by: Lamentations
============================
I echo the complaint made by Lamentations. People who write articles for the news media have got into the habit of emoting and offering vague generalities, and do not give you the facts to decide which side (if either) is right.

Those who hate Republicans will automatically hate them more. Those who hate pointy headed liberals will hate them more. And nothing will be learned.

We need facts! And figures.

Posted by: rjpal | February 27, 2011 7:21 AM | Report abuse

You can Stop congressional Republican nonsense and enact a progressive agenda. Sign the petition at http://www.democratz.org

Posted by: WWWoDEMOCRATZoORG | February 27, 2011 8:36 AM | Report abuse

It's interesting to see so many postings by the propagandized, "true believers" .

Lifelong Democrat here and involved in environmental and reclamation projects since the 1960's. That's probaly longer than many of the posters have been ariund. And, no I never worked for DuPont not owned stock in a plastics company.

I served on a city Council when a ban on styrofoam was passed in the 1980's. It passed over my no vote because it was based on innacurate science!

That was despite the fact that the environmental movement was still correctly practicing recycle and reuse. And, styrofoam is the only completely re-usable plastic. [It makes very good, utilitarian furniture and serves well as an addendum to heavy garden soils among about 40 other resuses.]

That was before the environmentally trendy, fulfilling an apparent, emotional need to dictate to others, were exposed as the frauds they are. It took about 3 years to get the "scared of not getting re-elected members" of the Council to repeal this trendy tripe. And, that after showing, factually, that the ban was neither scientifically or economically beneficial.

And please, posters, don't even go to the nonsense argument about petroleum process and "blowing agents" versus trees. That dog won't hunt and never has. Paper cups hurt the environment more. They're technically bio-degradable. Butt, then so are the newspapersthat provide 80% of the un degraded fill in our land fills. Killing the tree only begins the pollution process.

Sorry folks but the facts is the facts. And, those facts have been out there for over 25 years!

Unfortunately, the environmentally trendy, having found that Hitler was right about telling a lie loud enough and often enough, just don't want to deal in facts!

Posted by: JohninConnecticut | February 28, 2011 12:28 PM | Report abuse

Styrofoam? For real?

While we're at it, maybe we should ban cars and go for the ox & cart mode of transportation.

Posted by: ronnieandrush | February 28, 2011 5:28 PM | Report abuse

Yes, you can recycle styrofoam into furniture or clothes, but you will still be wearing cancer.

And BTW, unless he is in the styrofoam business, let's leave Hitler out of this discussion.

Posted by: MisterE2 | February 28, 2011 5:31 PM | Report abuse

I've been using the corn-based utensils on the Hill for months now and can say they are a clearly better product. The plastic utensils were weak, would snap like a twig, and had sharp edges that cut your mouth. The compostable utensils are thicker, more flexible yet strong, better designed for ease of use, and have softer edges that feel better to the mouth.

If you told everyone they were bad for the environment, I'm sure the GOP would prefer them by far.

Posted by: metame | February 28, 2011 9:02 PM | Report abuse

@Georgana: "I have heard these people will refuse to enter the house of someone that eats meat, eggs,dairy, etc., but they have no problem killing unborn babies and other imnmoral acts."

Please define

1. "These people"
2. "Unborn babies"
3. "Other immoral acts"

Also (if it wouldn't be too much trouble), could you post the source(s) for your information about liberals refusing to associate with people who eat meat and eggs?

Thanks awfully.

Posted by: macaroo388 | March 1, 2011 10:40 AM | Report abuse

@sarahab:"Surely there was a better middle ground than styrofoam."

Yes. They can do what we Quaint Common Folk do in our workplaces and BRING THEIR OWN COFFEE MUGS!!!

Posted by: macaroo388 | March 1, 2011 10:47 AM | Report abuse

@sarahab:"Surely there was a better middle ground than styrofoam."

Yes. They can do what we Quaint Common Folk do in our workplaces and BRING THEIR OWN COFFEE MUGS!!!

Posted by: macaroo388 | March 1, 2011 10:48 AM | Report abuse

So what should I do to show I care about this? Maybe if we all send in some reusable mugs, cups, plates, utensils... and some bleach so the cost of washing these won’t worry everyone (just a capful will do) will give them less of an excuse not to reduce and reuse.

Posted by: breezianna_ | March 1, 2011 1:36 PM | Report abuse

Are these people uneducated or just wantonly irresponsible? I am deeply ashamed of Lundgren et al. Backwards is not the direction we need to be going. Shame shame shame.

Posted by: calgal4 | March 1, 2011 3:23 PM | Report abuse

There's no such thing as a Styrofoam cup.

Posted by: editor21 | March 2, 2011 5:04 PM | Report abuse

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