Plastic cups are easy for an airline. You pick a massive amount out, use them to distribute liquids in, collect them up, put them in the appropriate recycle pile and pray someone will recycle them cheaply enough for you.
Alaska Airlines is playing a very different move, as it has removed plastic cups completely from its aircraft.
The airline has moved instead to offer beverages in glassware in First Class, whilst in Main Cabin, all drinks are now served in Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified paper cups.
The move is part of the airline’s attempts to remove plastic from the sky and as part of the airline’s broader sustainability efforts. The journey for the airline started in 2018 when the airline removed plastic straws and stir sticks from inflight service – a first for any airline at the time.
Alaska Airlines have partnered with others to help – including Boxed Water to help deliver savings in the air. This is offered to both Business and Economy Passengers aboard the aircraft.
One part of the sustainability mix
Removing plastics from an aircraft is an important part of the sustainability mix, as airlines seek to meet climate goals and net-zero goals.
Part of the issue is how to replace that – for some uses, plastics may be the only way to keep something fresh in the air – and there will be cases of how that will have to be managed and recycled.
In other cases – like cups, stirrers and straws, there are ways and means to replace the item now and reduce the impact on single-use resources and lean on reusable resources.
And it was done in the past – when airlines used glassware, metalware and crockery in all classes. However, as turnaround times tighten and cost pressures increase, those things went away, in favour of disposable items.
Is it a chance to look again at these items? Maybe, if the environmental regulations allow it, and providing it meets the costs of cleaning those items (rather than sending items to recycling).
The journey to a sustainable aviation industry may involve airlines looking back, as well as looking forward in how to balance the cost of doing business versus the environmental impact it has.
Images, Alaska Air.
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They should also remove ice from airplanes. It would save a ton of money and give them a better carbon footprint. Heck just eliminate any beverages on flights less than say 2 hours. Humans can live 2 hours without water.