Delta Air Lines will stop using a number of single-use plastic utensils. The airline announced Wednesday that it will remove plastic straws, stirrers, wrappers, and utensils from flights and Delta Sky Clubs.

Delta says that the change will eliminate 300,000 pounds of plastic per year. The airline will instead use straws and stirrers of bamboo and birch wood; the change has already gone into effect in Delta lounges.

The most recent change will go into effect in mid-2019.

Delta is taking a range of steps to cut down on plastic use. In April, it removed plastic wrap from international main cabin cutlery; utensils are now wrapped in a napkin. Delta has also committed to reducing wrapping in Delta One amenity kits and limiting Styrofoam usage in its Atlanta headquarters. The airline partnered with airports in Seattle and Minneapolis to manage compostable waste; Delta has expressed interest in partnering with each airport that its clubs.

“We’re looking broadly at how we can adjust our sourcing and behaviors to have greater impact on the local and global communities where we live, work and serve,” said Christine Boucher, Managing Director for Global Environment, Sustainability, and Compliance at Delta. “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, and we’re looking forward to working with young thought leaders like Carter, Emma, Olivia and Shelby to build an even more creative and impactful approach.”

Delta’s announcement comes as environmental activists worry about the future of the earth. A United Nations report released last month estimated that the climate could face irreversible damage if steps to reduce climate change are not taken. Dumping plastic waste in the ocean plays a noticeable role in habitat loss, and many are calling on large companies to cut plastic use.

In order to further support sustainability, Delta has established a Youth Advisory Council to guide sustainability efforts. Members currently include Carter and Olivia Ries, founders of One More Generation; Shelby O’Neil, founder of Jr Ocean Guardians; and Emma Kavanagh, founder of Surfrider Youth Club.

Delta is a sustainability leader among US airlines. The airline was the first to offer carbon offsets to customers. Delta has purchased nearly 9 million offsets since 2012. Delta is the only airline to voluntarily cap emissions at 2012 levels and was the first to recycle aluminum cans, plastic bottles and cups, newspapers, and magazines discarded in planes. Since 2008, Delta has recycled over 3 million pounds (a weight equivalent to 22 Boeing 747s combined) of aluminum alone. Delta has sought opportunities to upcycle unused frontline uniforms after updating the uniforms worn by crewmembers.

Other airlines have taken steps to reduce their carbon footprints. United Airlines announced a plan to cut emissions in half by 2050, and Hong Kong-based Cathay Pacific has committed to replacing standard jet fuel with biofuels on certain flights. United Airlines, American Airlines, and Alaska Airlines have all taken steps to remove disposable plastics from their products.

Featured image by Alvaro Lanza/Aeronautics Online

Categories: Industry Talk