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Delta Airlines’ simple on-board change could eliminate 7M pounds of single-use plastic: ‘What we can do right now’

Testing is projected to end by the summer of 2024.

Testing is projected to end by the summer of 2024.

Photo Credit: iStock

Delta Airlines has announced the Dec. 5 launch of final testing for its latest project in reducing single-use plastic: paper cups. 

After years of testing and prototyping cups appropriate for a wide range of beverages, while simultaneously meeting strict environmental regulations, Delta’s customized paper cups will now be rolled out for final tests on certain transcontinental domestic flights and other routes.

Once approved and made the standard across the entire Delta network (similar to what another airline has done), the paper cups are projected to eliminate nearly seven million pounds of single-use plastics on board annually — the weight of 1,300 pickup trucks, according to Delta.

Testing is projected to end by the summer of 2024 to minimize in-flight single-use plastics by 2025.

Delta’s chief sustainability officer Amelia DeLuca explained in a news release, “As an airline, our main goal is to decarbonize our business — a lot of which will come from what we fly, how we fly, and the fuel we use. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t also focus on what we can do right now within our own operation to be more sustainable.”

A long-time industry leader in driving environmentally friendly standards and solutions, Delta says it has already removed more than 4.9 million pounds of single-use plastics annually since 2022.

In addition to exploring ways to reduce single-use plastics and minimize waste on board during the 2023 Sustainable Flight Challenge, the Delta Carbon Council coordinated company-wide efforts to reduce pollution, knowing that air travel currently accounts for over 2% of all energy-related carbon pollution worldwide (per the International Energy Agency).

Some of Delta’s successes in these efforts included enhanced winglet installations for drag reduction, weight reduction initiatives, and flight routing/speed optimizations that saved more than 10 million gallons of fuel in 2022, as Fast Company reported.

Delta Sustainable Skies Lab is touted as a first-of-its-kind innovation lab striving to accelerate research, design, and testing with hopes of creating a future of air travel that is kinder to our planet, Forbes reported. This lab is crucial to Delta’s goal of net-zero pollution by 2050.

“Reducing Plastic. That’s refreshing,” the new Delta cup boasts.

Former chief sustainability officer Pam Fletcher is quoted as saying, “With aviation being a hard-to-decarbonize industry, none of us can do this alone. That’s why Delta is rolling out the welcome mat for disrupters of choice to join us in accelerating our path to net-zero emissions and a fully sustainable travel experience.” 

“We constantly need to be testing, learning, and iterating. That’s what innovating is all about, and innovation is core to Delta’s DNA,” DeLuca said in a statement.

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