The Styrofoam Comeback

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Founded in 2007, Green the Capitol was Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi's initiative to make the U.S. House of Representatives a leader in sustainable business practices.

Until recently, Pelosi's efforts resulted in the diversion of waste from landfills, the reduction of carbon emissions and a decline in energy use. And, according to the program's Web site: “A fundamental transformation of perspective and behavior among the House's thousands of employees.”

Apparently, that last part didn't go quite as planned. As of Monday, non-recyclable Styrofoam cups replaced Pelosi's expensive but environmentally friendly biodegradable cups in the Capitol building's mini-cafeteria. According to The Washington Post, this was the first step in phasing out Green the Capitol. The $475,000 composting program was also suspended.

“I have concluded that it is neither cost effective nor energy efficient to continue the program,” says Committee on House Administration Chairman Dan Lungren (R-Calif.). A press release on the committee's Web site asserts that the compost program increased the House's energy consumption because compost had to be hauled long distances and the pulping process for biodegradable containers required additional electricity. According to the House IG, the program's carbon reductions were equivalent to removing only one car from the road every year.

Pelosi, however, disagrees. “#SoBeIt GOP brings Styrofoam & ends composting,” she tweeted on Monday. “House will send 535 more tons to landfills.”

–Whitney Dreier

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