Composting project trashed

February 1, 2011 • Editorial

Congressional Republicans already have saved nearly a half-million dollars by eliminating a pet program set up by the House’s previous Democratic leadership. Adm[auth] ittedly it is not much, considering the government’s $1.4 trillion deficit. But even if it is more symbolic than substantive, it’s always good to see wasteful spending reduced.

In this case, wasteful spending on waste. Northern California Republican Rep. Dan Lungren has ordered an end to former Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s composting program in the House of Representatives. Apart from the $475,000 that ending the project will save, it points out the persistent problems with the Democratic Party’s reflexive devotion to all things green. Democrats created the composting program as part of Ms. Pelosi’s “Green the Capitol” initiative, replacing Styrofoam and plastic materials in House eating establishments with biodegradable alternatives.

The resultant biodegradable waste was shipped to a composting site in Maryland. In analyzing whether to renew the hauling contract, an internal review showed the program fell short of expectations.

“I have concluded that it is neither costeffective nor energy-efficient to continue the program,” said Mr. Lungren, chairman of the House Administration Committee. Hauling biodegradable waste to Maryland and the extra electricity used to turn the trash to pulp increased, rather than reduced, energy consumption, he said.

An inspector general review found the impact made by the program equivalent to taking just one car a year off the road. “While I am suspending this program because it is costly and increases energy consumption, I would like to assure the House community that this committee will continue to evaluate all components of House operations and will work with the appropriate agencies to incorporate environmentally sustainable practices when feasible,” he said.

“When feasible” seems to be a good standard. Clearly, $475,000 a pop to essentially remove one car from the roads is a cost that far exceeds its benefit. The Washington Post reported bipartisan complaints on the Hill about the biodegradable utensils falling apart when people tried to eat with them.

We hope Republican stewardship more carefully scrutinizes further efforts to “Green the Capitol” and avoids similar unintended consequences.

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