Alaska Airlines has just made the international news after officially becoming the first American airline company to ban single-use plastic straws, stirring sticks, and citrus picks on all flights (and within its loungers). As of July 16, 2018, all non-biodegradable utensils will be replaced with sustainable ones, in a move that affects no less than 44 million passengers. The aim is to reduce the burden of plastic in our oceans, which have an impact not only on marine life, but also on human beings who consume contaminated sea animals.
The United Nations against plastic
Increasing global awareness of sustainable tourism is a major priority for the United Nations since the number of worldwide travelers increased significantly in just 15 years (from 674 million in 200 to 1.2 billion in 2015). “The impact of tourism on the world can be negative or positive, and our goal is to see to it that the travel industry is a force for good,” said Taleb Rifai, Secretary General of the World Tourism Organization. The United Nations cited three major aims for airlines, cruises, tour operators, and hotels: minimizing the use of plastic, protecting nature and historic sites, and supporting local communities. The Alaska Airlines initiatives have embraced the first aim, in an attempt to further the other two.
Lonely Whale’s For a Strawless Ocean Campaign
Alaska Airlines came to its decision after deciding to back Lonely Whale’s For A Strawless Ocean campaign, which aims to reduce the amount of plastic in the World’s oceans. By 2050, notes Lonely Whale, there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish. Plastic straws are just one of many single-use plastic items which have ended up in our waters, polluting the water and harming marine life. Stars like Ellen Pompeo are working alongside the organization to wake human beings to the harsh reality. Human begins use 500 million plastic straws a day – just one of many plastic items which are unnecessary and unsustainable.
A call for sustainability
If one trend has marked travel over the past decade, it is a growing desire for sustainability in travel and accommodation. Airlines are increasingly seeking ways to reduce waste, which has led to the development of new technologies like ReTrolley: a new system for onboard recycling developed by Iacobucci HF Aerospace. It looks like a typical cabin service trolley but contains different containers with unique designs for different types of waste. The system made its first appearance at the April 2018 edition of the Aircraft Interiors Expo.
Alaska Airlines is not alone
A bevy of airlines is making their best efforts to promote sustainability. A list compiled by Brighter Reports lists the following airlines as being the most sustainable: Ryan Air, Cathay Pacific, EasyJet, Continental Airlines, and United Airlines. Surprisingly, low-cost airlines are also some of the greenest. Density (ensuring all flights are full) is one of the best ways to reduce fuel consumption. Other initiatives include the search for alternative fuels, and the creation of services such as Bandwagon, which connects travelers wishing to share a taxi to the airport.
Alaska Airlines’ banning of single-use plastic is the perfect instance of a seemingly small change making a big difference. As the demand for sustainable travel continues to grow, new initiatives such as these are predicted to appear. Plastics, fuel consumption, and unnecessary stopovers are just a few considerations for airline companies to look into, to make the world a greener place.