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Posted at 2:53 PM ET, 03/ 2/2011

House to test reusable dishware

By Felicia Sonmez

A pilot program that would test the feasibility of using reusable dishware is in the works in one of the House cafeterias.

The program is slated to begin in the House Rayburn Office Building cafeteria in a few weeks, according to Salley Wood, the communications director for the Committee on House Administration.

Wood said that the committee directed the House Chief Administrative Officer to begin the reusable dishware pilot program after the committee moved to suspend the House composting program, which had been spearheaded by then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) after Democrats retook the House in 2007.

The Committee on House Administration announced in January that it was suspending the program, citing information from the House Inspector General and the House Chief Administrative Officer indicating that the program had increased the chamber's operating costs by $475,000.

News of the pilot program comes as House Democrats have ramped up their criticism of Republicans for suspending the composting program. Democrats have been particularly incensed by the decision to replace compostable cups with Styrofoam cups, which returned to the House mini-cafeteria late last week after a four-year hiatus.

California Democratic Rep. Mike Honda, the ranking member on the Appropriations Committee's Legislative Branch Subcommittee, said Tuesday that the Styrofoam cups pose health risks and will eventually cost the country more than the compostable cups that had been in use while Democrats controlled the House.

"We know that these styrofoam cups, which recently replaced the compostable cups in our cafeterias, are connected with human carcinogens -- just ask the EPA and the International Agency for Research on Cancer," Honda said in a statement. "Or ask McDonalds, who stopped using them years ago. These cancer-causing cups leach toxic chemicals, which threaten our health, our reproductive systems, and our environment as the nation's 5th largest creator of hazardous waste. To claim these cups are part of a cost-cutting measure is completely disingenuous."

Honda added that the Styrofoam cups "will increase costs to our country due to health-related impacts, toxic cleanups, new landfill construction and increased reliance on energy-intensive, oil-based plastics. Our compostable cups did none of this."

New York Democratic Rep. Steve Israel, the chairman of House Democrats' campaign committee, released a statement Tuesday contending that in the two months since Republicans retook the House, 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," Israel said.

Both statements followed a Monday night tweet by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) in which the former speaker, who spearheaded the "Green the Capitol" program that did away with the Styrofoam cups in 2007, charged that the GOP move to end the composting program "will send 535 more tons to landfills."

While Democrats this week have taken aim at Republicans over the composting program, last December, Rep. Robert Brady (Pa.), the top Democrat on the House Administration Committee, penned a letter to the House Republican transition team recommending that the composting program be suspended, noting that "[c]omposting services in the National Capital Region have not adequately matured to make this program a sustainable or cost efficient enterprise for the House."

In addition to the return of Styrofoam cups, plastic silverware has also been reintroduced in the House, replacing the biodegradable utensils that were in use as part of the composting program. The compostable utensils and take-out boxes had been particularly unpopular among the staffers, lawmakers and others who frequent the House eateries, who noted that the cornstarch silverware would easily break or melt and the boxes would leak.

Wood said that in addition to the pilot program in Rayburn, the committee is also trying to avoid the use of landfills by working with the Architect of the Capitol to send all non-recyclable waste to waste-to-energy facilities.

By Felicia Sonmez  | March 2, 2011; 2:53 PM ET
 
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Comments

This writing is supposed to be about dishware, i.e. the things people use when they eat. Perhaps this writer had been eating tripe before she wrote it because that is the character of the writing.

Posted by: reformthesystem | March 2, 2011 4:00 PM | Report abuse

The issue I see is simply a need for change in the way we look at plastics. Bringing innovation into the plastic pollution mix is exactly what we need to do as a country-from the top down. We need new materials that are both convenient and stable as the standard plastic we now use, but will also biodegrade if discarded in a landfill (or a commercial composting facility if appropriate), and not stay on this planet for the next 1000 years.
This is exactly what a company called ENSO Plastics (http://www.ensoplastics.com) is doing. Think of that, if any plastic we use would biodegrade in a landfill once it has completed its useful life for us (95% of ALL plastic goes into landfills), we would not have any long term plastic pollution problems. Also, landfills are capturing the bio-gasses from biodegradable items and creating the world’s cleanest energy.

In addition, it would be nice to insure that all "green" plastic products can be recycled in the existing recycle streams, and not be a contaminate like most compostable plastics are. However; even recycling only delays the inevitable as down cycling will ultimately brings even recycled plastics to the "dump".

Developing innovations and green technology industries have a bright future and will only lead to creating more jobs! We need to get better at what we do (recycling) AND improve the plastic we utilize for a better, more responsible tomorrow. This is forward thinking, and it’s easy to be a critic, but it is about time for improved change. Our nations leaders need to get educated on what is currently available, and make improvements that others will follow.

Posted by: PlasticGuy | March 7, 2011 6:56 PM | Report abuse

The issue I see is simply a need for change in the way we look at plastics. Bringing innovation into the plastic pollution mix is exactly what we need to do as a country-from the top down. We need new materials that are both convenient and stable as the standard plastic we now use, but will also biodegrade if discarded in a landfill (or a commercial composting facility if appropriate), and not stay on this planet for the next 1000 years.
This is exactly what a company called ENSO Plastics (http://www.ensoplastics.com) is doing. Think of that, if any plastic we use would biodegrade in a landfill once it has completed its useful life for us (95% of ALL plastic goes into landfills), we would not have any long term plastic pollution problems. Also, landfills are capturing the bio-gasses from biodegradable items and creating the world’s cleanest energy.

In addition, it would be nice to insure that all "green" plastic products can be recycled in the existing recycle streams, and not be a contaminate like most compostable plastics are. However; even recycling only delays the inevitable as down cycling will ultimately brings even recycled plastics to the "dump".

Developing innovations and green technology industries have a bright future and will only lead to creating more jobs! We need to get better at what we do (recycling) AND improve the plastic we utilize for a better, more responsible tomorrow. This is forward thinking, and it’s easy to be a critic, but it is about time for improved change. Our nations leaders need to get educated on what is currently available, and make improvements that others will follow.

Posted by: PlasticGuy | March 7, 2011 6:58 PM | Report abuse

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