Alaska Airlines Goes Strawless in Partnership with Lonely Whale

alaska airlines lonely whale sustainability

Continuing its commitment to sustainability, Alaska Airlines removes plastic straws and bottled beers, and refills plastic cups instead of replacing them

Alaska Airlines and Lonely Whale announced the airlines‘ initiative to replace single-use, non-recyclable, plastic stir straws and citrus picks with sustainable alternatives in its airport lounges and on all domestic and international commercial flights starting 16 July 2018.

The initiative is one of many in the airline’s push for sustainability and goal of reducing in-flight waste per passenger going to landfills by 70% by 2020.

“Whether providing good service or taking a lead in sustainability, caring about people and communities is in our DNA. Without a doubt, we fly to some of the most beautiful places on earth, including many communities that depend on healthy oceans.

“We are pleased to partner with Lonely Whale to take this next step in our sustainability journey and help keep the places we live and fly beautiful for years to come. It is especially appropriate now as ending plastic pollution was the theme for Earth Day this year,” said Diana Birkett Rakow, Alaska Airlines’ Vice President of External Relations.

The Earth Day Network declared ending plastic pollution to be the theme for Earth Day this year, which was 22 April. The group challenged everyone to reduce the amount of plastic they consume.

Plastic straws are of special concern because they cannot be recycled and they have been shown to kill birds and other marine life.

In 2017, the airline handed out 22 million plastic stir straws and citrus picks. Those two items will be replaced starting in July with Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified, white birch stir sticks and a bamboo alternative for the citrus pick.

Non-plastic, marine-friendly straws will be made available to guests with special needs and upon request.

The airline is also excited to partner with Lonely Whale, an incubator that drives impactful, market-based change on behalf of the ocean.

Last year, Lonely Whale launched “For A Strawless Ocean,” a free public resource to reduce ocean plastic pollution. Starting with the elimination of single-use straws, the resource was designed as a toolkit to educate and demonstrate practical use cases.

“Assisting Alaska Airlines in removing plastic straws is an incredible opportunity. The airline has one of the most comprehensive in-flight recycling programmes of any US carrier to date, and their previous and future commitments to biofuels and sustainability makes them a good partner for Lonely Whale.

“The banning of single-use plastic beverage straws sets a new standard for the travel industry, and we could not be happier that Alaska Airlines is the first US airline to lead the charge,” said Dune Ives, Lonely Whale Executive Director.

Since it started auditing its recycling efforts in 2010, the airline has reduced passenger waste to landfill by 54%, essentially cutting waste in half.

In the last eight years, flight attendants captured 12,000 tonnes of recyclable materials, about the same weight of 244 Boeing 737-900ERs.

“Building on our grassroots, employee-led recycling programme, we are thrilled to take the next step to protecting our land and oceans by removing single-use non-recyclable plastic straws from our planes,” said Jacqueline Drumheller, Sustainability Manager for Alaska Airlines.

To further reduce environmental impact, the airline has replaced bottled beer with aluminum cans, which are lighter and easier to recycle; and a policy to refill plastic cups rather than requiring a new cup for every round of beverage service was reintroduced.