The House has voted to continue using foam cups and other polystyrene products, the latest salvo in a congressional food fight over the sustainability of the Capitol’s restaurants, eateries, and cafeterias.
The use of disposable foam cups and food containers, along with plastic cutlery, in the House’s eateries has been the subject of a long-running battle between Democrats and Republicans. Republicans reversed a ban on the products after they took control of the House in 2011.
In the latest skirmish over the House’s tableware, a Democratic amendment to a $3.3 billion bill funding House operations that would have effectively banned the use of food service products made of polystyrene failed June 8 by a largely party-line vote of 178-229.
“We should be leading by example, and this amendment provides a way through which we can show environmental responsibility to the thousands of constituents who visit our offices each year,” Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.), the amendment’s author, said on the House floor.
Concerns About Health.
According to Moran, polystyrene is harmful to public health, requires the use of cancerous chemicals in its manufacture, releases toxic byproducts during incineration, and is hard to recycle.
In a report issued in June 2001, the Department of Health and Human Services classified styrene, which is used in the manufacture of polystyrene, as “reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen.”
Industry groups such as the American Chemistry Council and Republicans like Rep. Dan Lungren (Calif.), who chairs the committee charged with overseeing daily operations of the House, deny those charges and note that the Food and Drug Administration have deemed polystyrene safe for use in contact with food.
Furthermore, polystyrene proponents such as Rep. Ken Calvert (R-Calif.) say the “ineffective” paper cups previously used are as much as three times more expensive than polystyrene foam cups and use significantly more energy and water in their manufacture.
"This product costs less and is a better product,” he said of foam products in remarks on the House floor. “And I think that’s something that we ought to do here in the government … find ways of saving money and produce a better outcome.”
Biodegradable Forks, Efficient Toilets.
A “Green the Capitol” sustainability initiative undertaken by then-House Speaker Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) in 2007 shepherded in the use of cardboard containers, paper cups, and biodegradable forks, as well as low-flow toilets and energy-efficient lighting.
But the foam cups and plastic utensils returned to the House’s restaurants and cafeterias after Republicans took control of the chamber.
Lungren, chairman of the Committee on House Administration, said in a statement at the time that he was suspending a composting program, which the bio-utensils were part of, because of its nearly $500,000-a-year cost and because it “actually increased the House's overall energy consumption.”
As an alternative, the committee directed the Architect of the Capitol to send nearly all of the estimated 5,300 tons of non-recyclable trash produced in the Capitol complex annually to waste-to-energy facilities, Lungren said.
The Democratic-controlled Senate, the Library of Congress, and the Capitol Visitor Center do not use polystyrene products, according to Moran.
Though polystyrene foam is often referred to as Styrofoam, the term actually refers to a type of building insulation trademarked by The Dow Chemical Co.
All Bloomberg BNA treatises are available on standing order, which ensures you will always receive the most current edition of the book or supplement of the title you have ordered from Bloomberg BNA’s book division. As soon as a new supplement or edition is published (usually annually) for a title you’ve previously purchased and requested to be placed on standing order, we’ll ship it to you to review for 30 days without any obligation. During this period, you can either (a) honor the invoice and receive a 5% discount (in addition to any other discounts you may qualify for) off the then-current price of the update, plus shipping and handling or (b) return the book(s), in which case, your invoice will be cancelled upon receipt of the book(s). Call us for a prepaid UPS label for your return. It’s as simple and easy as that. Most importantly, standing orders mean you will never have to worry about the timeliness of the information you’re relying on. And, you may discontinue standing orders at any time by contacting us at 1.800.960.1220 or by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Put me on standing order at a 5% discount off list price of all future updates, in addition to any other discounts I may quality for. (Returnable within 30 days.)
Notify me when updates are available (No standing order will be created).
This Bloomberg BNA report is available on standing order, which ensures you will all receive the latest edition. This report is updated annually and we will send you the latest edition once it has been published. By signing up for standing order you will never have to worry about the timeliness of the information you need. And, you may discontinue standing orders at any time by contacting us at 1.800.372.1033, option 5, or by sending us an email to email@example.com.
Put me on standing order
Notify me when new releases are available (no standing order will be created)