Alaska becomes first major airline to eliminate plastic cups

Alaska Airlines has become the first major carrier to dispense with plastic cups from its in-flight beverage service eliminating more than 55 million plastic cups annually.

Alaska will instead use certified recycled paper cups to serve most of its passengers while first-class passengers will be treated to reusable, washable glasses for cocktails and soft drinks.

Combined with the carrier’s current policy of offering the Boxed Water brand, which comes in recyclable paper containers, Alaska said the total effort will keep 2.2 million pounds of plastic waste out of landfills every year.

Alaska executives said the company was motivated to make the change in part because, with its focus on routes in the North American West, it caters to tourists and other travellers who generally support conservation and eco-friendly business practices. Regional carrier Horizon Air, also owned by Alaska Air Group, is included in the sustainability efforts.

The carrier has also pledged to reach net-zero emissions by 2040, in part by reducing carbon-emitting fuel emissions through the use of biofuel made from plants. However, it will also have to purchase carbon credits or find other ways to offset the greenhouse gases that are still emitted by its operations. Its 2040 target date is largely in line with those set by other major airlines.

The shift to paper cups “is another important step in our journey to eliminate single-use plastics and an important step for the industry to see how product innovations can chart a course to a greener future,” said Todd Traynor-Corey, managing director of guest products for Alaska Airlines.

The carrier explained that it began the process of eliminating its five largest sources of plastic waste in 2018 by removing plastic straws and stir sticks from inflight service – a first for any airline at the time.

“As part of our broader sustainability efforts, Alaska continues to pursue product innovations and supply chain advancements to achieve our 2025 goal of replacing the top five waste-producing items from onboard service and continuing to recycle,” it said.


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