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Alaska Airlines passengers will soon notice something different when they order in-flight cocktails or coffees.
No, the airlineâs not changing a crucial ingredient. But those plastic stirring sticks? Theyâre about to go the way of paper tickets and empty middle seats.
Alaska Airlines will phase out plastic stirring sticks in favor of compostable versions made of white birch. Citrus picks will switch from plastic to bamboo.
Itâs all in the name of the environment, swapping out the single-use plastic sticks for a more sustainable option. The changes beginÂ July 16, when Alaska starts phasing out the plastic items from itsÂ flights and frequent-flier lounges. Â
Though some global airlines have pledged to gradually reduce the use of such items, Alaska Airlines says its move will make it the first in the U.S. to eliminate them altogether.
âPlastic is a serious issue for our planet. Whatâs important is continuing to move the global supply chain toward making sustainable materials accessible and affordable,â Shaunta Hyde, Alaska Airlinesâ managing director â community relations, says in a statement to USA TODAYâs Today in the Sky blog.
Alaska Airlines will switch from single-use plastic stir sticks to sustainable organic versions starting in July 2018.Â (Photo: Alaska Airlines)
Indeed, concern has been growing regarding the effect of plastic on the environment. Single-use plastic items â such as the straws and citrus picks Alaska Airlines is set to replace â have drawn particular scrutiny by environmental groups.
In a statement detailing the change, Alaska Airlines says âplastic straws are of special concern because they cannot be recycled, and theyâve been shown to kill birds and other marine life.â
After handing out a combined 22 million plastic stir straws and citrus picks on its flights and in its frequent-flier lounges in 2017, Alaska Airlines hopes its shift to sustainable versions will make a difference.
âI imagine this will make a big difference,â Hyde says about Alaskaâs decision to shift to sustainable versions of the items. âThey are a very real wood alternative, and quite nice.â
Alaska Airlines will switch from single-use plastic citrus picks to sustainable organic versions starting in July 2018.Â (Photo: Alaska Airlines)
Alaska Airlines also says it will introduce non-plastic, marine-friendly drinking straws for customers requesting them. Hyde says Alaska has not yet selected a compostable alternative yet for thoseÂ but says âwe will be using a product that is marine-friendly.â
More broadly, Alaska Airlines says the change is part of its overall goal to reduce its in-flight waste per passenger going to landfills by 70% by 2020.
Among the environmentally-focused changes already in place at the Seattle-based carrier: bottled beer has been replaced with aluminum cans, which are lighter and easier to recycle, according to the company. And a policy to refill plastic cups rather than requiring a new cup for every round of beverage service has recently been reintroduced.
For the effort with straws and citrus picks, Alaska Airlines has partnered with environmental group Lonely Whale, which has made âFor A Strawless Oceanâ one of its pillar campaigns.
âPlastic pollution is causing devastating marine life issues with plastic now found in the bellies of whales, turtlesÂ and more, including seabirds, of which 99% of all species are expected to have ingested plastic by the year 2050,â Lonely Whale executive director Dune Ives says to Today in the Sky.Â
âThe banning of single-use plastic beverage straws sets a new standard for the travel industry, and we couldnât be happier that Alaska Airlines is the firstÂ U.S. airline to lead the charge,â Ives adds in the carrier’s media statement.
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