Should D.C. fine the House for stocking cafeterias with styrofoam?
WASHINGTON—Plastic foam food containers will be banned from use in the District of Columbia beginning in 2016, but the material still reigns supreme in House cafeterias.
Democrats who chided Republicans for reinstituting Styrofoam when they took control of the House in 2011 want to see the old standard replaced with an environmentally friendly alternative, as Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., did when she was speaker. Pelosi’s “Green the Capitol” initiative included compostable utensils and takeout trays, but it was nixed after financial criticism and was folded into existing sustainability efforts managed by the Architect of the Capitol.
Though the local Styrofoam ban, signed into law by Mayor Vincent Gray in late July, is not applicable to the Capitol grounds, some Democrats hope it could reopen the dialogue about how House cafeterias are stocked.
“Maybe they should fine the Hill,” suggested Michael M. Honda, D-Calif., a former legislative branch appropriator who spoke out against the GOP’s choice to begin using the plastic foam packaging again in 2011. He said then that it exposed his staff, colleagues and constituents to known health risks.
“If it has no impact, at least it will raise the profile where the country starts saying, ‘Oh, there’s a big discourse and disagreement between the city of the District of Columbia and Capitol Hill. What is it?’” Honda said people would start scratching their heads and come to the conclusion, “So, they think they’re above the law.”
Under Republican leadership, the House Administration Committee canceled a composting program implemented by Pelosi. The GOP estimated that the California Democrat’s House composting program cost $475,000 annually, and produced nominal reductions in carbon emissions — equivalent to removing one car from the road per year. An internal review revealed that composting actually increased the House’s overall energy consumption, requiring additional electricity for the pulping process and adding to the distance traveled to haul the waste to the composting facility.