For the love of polystyrene

FOR THE LOVE OF POLYSTYRENE…. The list of issues causing bitter divisions among Democrats and Republicans on Capitol Hill has a new entry: biodegradable cups.

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.

Wonkette offers a reminder about the nature of the problem: “‘Foamed polystyrene’ is a miraculous invention that manages to be completely awful through every step of its near-eternal ‘life cycle’ — it is manufactured with petroleum that must be imported from Middle East dictatorships, toxic ‘styrene oligomers’ migrate into the food it holds, it’s highly flammable and produces black poisonous smoke, and most of the 25 billion polystyrene cups tossed every year will take more than half a millennium to degrade. And that’s why the Republican-led House of Representatives made it an immediate priority to cancel the House cafeteria’s four years of biodegradable food and beverage packaging.”

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), not surprisingly, isn’t happy, noting that the new Republican policy will send 535 more tons of waste to landfills.

Part of me wonders if the GOP policy brought back the environmentally-irresponsible cups just to annoy Pelosi, or if Republicans are choosing to thumb their noses at “green” policies, just because it makes them feel better about themselves.

I suppose it’s possible that it’s both.