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This airline dropped plastic bottles and cups on all its flights — here's how the change is going

Plastics in the ocean add dirty carbon pollution into the atmosphere and are estimated to kill upward of 1.1 million seabirds and marine creatures each year.

Plastics in the ocean add dirty carbon pollution into the atmosphere and are estimated to kill upward of 1.1 million seabirds and marine creatures each year.

Photo Credit: iStock

Alaska Airlines' recent change to replace plastic water bottles with Boxed Water is looking like a hit with flyers. 

The November 2021 shift to Boxed Water instead of plastic bottles was expected to save nearly 1.8 million pounds of single-use plastics per year and was in line with the airline's eco-conscious strategy. In 2018, Alaska was reportedly the first airline to ban plastic straws and stir sticks from flights and lounges. The airline also plans to have "net-zero carbon emissions" by 2040. 

Earlier this year, Sustainable Brands covered that the program had encountered some challenges with recycling the paper cups used. But despite that, the outlet noted Alaska Airlines had reported 2.2 million pounds of plastic saved annually by replacing plastic water bottles and plastic cups and that "while the airline works to find a more permanent solution to the new paper cups, they cut down on overall waste by weight by roughly eight grams per cup."

"It has been two years since we began to work with Boxed Water, enabling Alaska Airlines to become the first U.S. airline to eliminate plastic bottles from our water service," Ryan Spies, Alaska Airlines' managing director of sustainability, said in a statement to The Cool Down. "This work is just one of the unique ways to reach our 2025 goal of eliminating five single-use plastics from our inflight service."

As Spies noted, this November marked the airline's second anniversary of the switch, and it looks successful overall thus far despite those early challenges with the transition. Many flyers have taken to social media to raise a glass — or at least a box — to the move to a less wasteful choice. One even wrote they would "fly Alaska just for that." 

The program was designed to remove 22 million plastic cups and 32 million plastic water bottles per year — which Boxed Water claimed as "the equivalent of eighteen 737 Boeing aircrafts [by weight]." These plastic cups and bottles would likely have otherwise ended up in a landfill or been exported overseas, where they can pollute waterways and cause significant ecological damage. 

Plastic water bottles remain one of the most common types of marine pollution. Plastics in the ocean add dirty carbon pollution into the atmosphere and are estimated to kill upward of 1 million seabirds and 100,000 marine mammals each year, according to the United Nations. 

Boxed Water and Alaska Airlines also encourage passengers to bring reusable water bottles with them for traveling as the best strategy to reduce waste. While Boxed Waters' cartons aren't perfectly recyclable, the water supplier notes that a plant-based carton like the ones it uses is more eco-friendly than a single-use plastic bottle. According to a Boxed Water blog post and its website, the company's container is "92% renewable" and uses a plant-based, resealable cap.

🗣️ Which of these factors would most effectively motivate you to buy a refillable product?

🔘 Saving money 💰

🔘 Reducing plastic waste 🗑️

🔘 Using less shelf space at home 💁‍♀️

🔘 Getting easy refill deliveries 😎

🗳️ Click your choice to see results and speak your mind

Boxed Water has also taken to social media to help promote its partnership and encourage flyers to adopt more sustainable practices when flying. Alaska Airlines customers can post a photo on Instagram with their Boxed Water carton with the caption #BetterPlanet, and Boxed Water will plant two trees via the National Forest Foundation. 

According to the Boxed Water blog, refillable water bottle gurus can use #FillBeforeYouFly and a photo of a reusable bottle posted on social media to plant a tree in partnership with the Bonneville Environmental Foundation — as if you needed a reason to show off your cool Nalgene stickers.

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