March 2, 2011- Former Koch Industries executive George Wurtz owns WinCup, which supplies the styrofoam cups now littering the building following the House GOP's decision to phase out biodegradable cups from a Capitol lunchroom.
House Republicans announced in January that they would end a program to place compostable cups, containers and utensils in the House-side mini-cafeteria, a direct shot at former Speaker Nancy Pelosi's "Green the Capitol" initiative, which did away with styrofoam cups in 2007. Suspending the program resulted in business for Wurtz, a former executive of Koch Industries subsidiary Georgia-Pacific LLC.
GOP leaders did not handpick Wurtz's company, however — that decision rested with Restaurant Associates, which manages the cafeteria.
"Decisions over what suppliers to use were done solely at the discretion of Restaurant Associates," Salley Wood, spokeswoman for the House Administration Committee.
House Republicans have defended the switch as a simple matter of economics, claiming the compostable program was too costly to continue. Wood said the compostable materials cost the House about $320,000 per year, plus $60,000 for hauling and at least $90,000 for labor.
Although she declined to give a figure for the cost of removing compostables, Wood said the committee was exploring other options to save costs and increase energy efficiency, including exploring whether waste can go to facilities that convert it to energy rather than into landfills.
As directed by the committee, the House will also test a reusable dishware pilot program in the Rayburn House Office Building later this month, Wood said.
At least one House Democrat was on board with ending the compostable program: then-Chairman of the House Administration Committee Robert Brady (D-Pa.) recommended discontinuing the compostables program in a December letter to the House GOP transition team.