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Airline eliminates plastic straws and stirrers

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© Provided by Hearst Communications, Inc Alaska Airlines hands out 22 million straws and stirrers a year. That will soon end.

By Chris McGinnis, SF Gate

Alaska Airlines handed out nearly 22 million disposable plastic straws and stirrers in 2017. So just imagine the pile of straws in the trash of much larger airlines-- or the industry as a whole.

The green movement has long targeted disposable plastic shopping bags as an environmental hazard; some cities now impose a small per-bag fee for their use in supermarkets and some have banned them altogether (like San Francisco did a decade ago).

Now, the targets are plastic drinking straws and stirrers, and Alaska Airlines said this week it is getting rid of them. The airline said that beginning in mid-July, it will replace non-recyclable plastic stir straws and citrus picks with “sustainable, marine-friendly alternatives” on all of its flights and in its airport lounges.

“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,” a spokesperson said.

Alaska is partnering with Seattle-based Lonely Whale, an organization that works to implement policies and practices that lead to cleaner oceans.

A lot of disposable plastic items end up in the world’s seas, and the amount of plastic there is expected to triple over the next decade without remedial action.

The airline isn’t alone in the anti-straw movement. San Francisco is due to consider legislation that would ban local establishments form putting plastic straws or stirrers into the drinks they serve. And in July, Seattle will begin prohibiting plastic straws and utensils.

The airline noted that it also plans to stop using large aseptic juice boxes for in-flight beverage service with aluminum cans, which can more easily be recycled. Last year, Alaska replaced most of the bottled beer it served with beer in aluminum cans. For the same reason. It has set an internal target of reducing the amount of in-flight waste that it sends to landfills by 70 percent over the next few years.


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