Atlanta-based Delta Air Lines plans to eliminate 12 million plastic stirrers and a whopping 170 million plastic straws which are used annually onboard its aircraft and in its premium lounges. The airline announced the plan as part of a major push to cut down on the amount of single-use plastic it uses – savings should equate to around 300,000 pounds of plastic waste every year.
Efforts have already started in Delta’s lounges where plastic stirrers and straws are to be replaced with compostable bamboo alternatives. The airline says it hopes to have eliminated plastic straws from its aircraft by the mid 2019.
The move follows hot on the heels of a separate move to reduce plastic waste by wrapping onboard cutlery in paper napkins rather than a sheath of plastic – unfortunately, cutlery in the airline’s economy cabin will still be made out of disposable plastic despite the new sustainability drive.
Other plans to reduce plastic waste include removing what Delta calls “unnecessary plastic wrapping from Delta One amenity kits” and creating single-use service ware made out of compostable materials – currently being piloted at Delta Sky Clubs in Seattle and Minneapolis but with plans to roll the initiative out across the United States.
“Reducing single-use plastics is a natural extension of the work we’ve been doing for years to lead the industry in efforts to reduce our impact on the environment,” explained Delta’s Christine Boucher.
The airline already recycles aluminum cans, plastic bottles and cups, as well as newspapers and magazines and runs a carbon offset programme.
Earlier this year, Delta partnered with Looptworks, an upcycling design company to repurpose some of the 1 million pieces of old uniform into new designer bags and accessories. Some 350,000 pounds of old Delta uniform were transferred to Looptworks to either upcycle into new pieces or donate to people in need.
Delta’s bid to reduce single-use plastic sees the airline join an industry-wide focus on cutting down waste. From next month, American Airlines will eliminate plastic straws onboard its aircraft – again opting for a bamboo stir stick.
Bamboo and birch stir sticks are also now being used by United Airlines and Alaska Airlines. For its part, United also recovers the contents from part-used amenity kits to create hygiene packs which in turn are donated to those in need.
It’s great to see an increasing number of airlines make a real effort to reduce the use of single-use plastics. There’s real progress in eliminating plastic straws and some plastic wrap – although there’s still much to do and tonnes of plastic waste which could still be saved.
It will be interesting to see whether airlines are willing to reduce plastic waste when the alternatives cost more than single-use plastic. Delta has already offset some of the costs by reducing “waste” from the amount of food and drink it loads onto its flights.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.