House Dems offer amendment to stop use of Styrofoam in food service

House Democrats once again are attempting to do away with Styrofoam products in congressional cafeterias, this time with an amendment to a fiscal 2012 Legislative Branch Appropriations bill.

Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.) on Wednesday introduced an anti-Styrofoam amendment during an Appropriations Committee markup.

The proposed legislation did not get far, however. Committee members voted on the amendment down party lines, with the majority torpedoing the measure 26-18.

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The amendment stipulated that “none of the funds made available in this act may be used to obtain polystyrene products for use in food service facilities of the House.”

“The House of Representatives should serve as a model institution for others to follow,” Moran said. “Eliminating the use of polystyrene in our cafeterias is [the] responsible, environmentally friendly thing to do, but the new Republican House majority has again made clear they [couldnt] care less.”

The amendment is the latest attempt by House Democrats to rid Congress of polystyrene products, commonly referred to by the brand name Styrofoam, after the Republican majority reintroduced it earlier this year. The change was viewed as the first move toward the Republican majority phasing out the environmental Green the Capitol program put into place under former Majority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).

Democratic lawmakers reacted swiftly and harshly to the change.

“This is a case of the Republicans being spiteful and stupid,” Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) told The Hill in March. “Not only are they harming the environment, they’re taking the Capitol, instead of being an example, back to the Stone Age.”

Members of the House Administration Committee defended the decision at the time, citing a joint report from the House inspector general and chief administrative officer that concluded that the House’s prior composting program wasn’t achieving its goals of reducing energy consumption.

“This program was costing taxpayers half a million dollars while achieving nominal reductions in our carbon emissions,” committee spokeswoman Salley Wood previously told The Hill. “We’re not anti-environmentalist, but we need programs that are more cost-effective and efficient.”

The amendment is not the first step taken by Moran to rid the House of Styrofoam. In March, he was one of 105 lawmakers to send a letter to House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and other Republican leaders complaining that the material could cause cancer.

“There are significant health and environmental risks associated with Styrofoam, as well as additional costs associated with increased waste removal,” wrote the Democratic lawmakers. “The desire to save a few pennies should never come at the expense of jeopardizing staff, members and visitors’ health.”

Rep. Mike Honda (D-Calif.), who signed the March letter, supported the introduction of the amendment during Wednesday’s hearing.

“We should have a greater concern about our staff and our members and our visitors who use our facilities and the products there, that they are afforded the best and the most healthy of kinds of materials that we can afford,” he said.

—This story was last updated at 6:05 p.m.