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Delta Air Lines to Eliminate Nearly Seven Million Pounds of Single Use Plastic Onboard Annually

Starting this month, Delta Air Lines will begin final testing of new paper cups onboard transcontinental flights, with the goal of eliminating seven million pounds of single-use plastic annually.

Delta to Replace Single-Use Plastic Cups With Sustainable Paper Alternative - Courtesy Delta Air Lines

On Tuesday (December 5, 2023), Delta Air Lines announced that this month they will begin final testing of new paper cups onboard transcontinental flights.  The carrier has spent years prototyping and testing sustainable paper cups capable of withstanding hot, cold and alcoholic beverages while meeting strict environmental standards.  Once the new cups are approved and rolled out systemwide, they will help eliminate nearly seven million pounds of single-use plastic annually, bringing the carrier’s goal of minimizing single-use plastics onboard by 2025.

In Tuesday’s announcement, Delta’s Chief Sustainability Officer, Amelia DeLuca, said,

“One of the most important things about making long-term, sustainable changes is having the opportunity to test the new solutions and get real feedback from both our employees and our customers.  We constantly need to be testing, learning and iterating.  That’s what innovating is all about, and innovation is core to Delta’s DNA.

“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.  These cups are a great example of how Delta is working to address our impact through what we can control today.  They’re a highly visible and tangible example for our customers and our people of how Delta is taking our commitment to embed sustainability in everything we do seriously.”

Also commenting on the reduction of single-use plastics onboard, Delta’s SVP – Inflight Service, Kristin Manion Taylor, added,

“Finding an alternative to single-use plastic cups that is premium for our customers and practical for our flight attendants is important. Our flight attendants are passionate about minimizing our environmental impact while continuing to create an elevated customer experience on our flights.”

Since 2022, Delta has already removed over 4.9 million pounds of single-use plastics annually.  The transition to paper cups involves a variety of considerations, as many versions include a plastic-based liner that can make them harder to recycle.  This is further complicated with a patchwork of international regulations and mandates regarding single-use plastics that Delta has to consider.  Therefore, the airline has been working with sustainability and supply chain experts and production partners to create and manufacture a cup unique to Delta.  Additionally, the new cups are compostable, and can be recycled where airport recycling facilities exist, diverting waste from landfills. 

Final testing for the cups is expected to be completed by spring 2024, at which time the standard plastic cups will return while the new paper cups are manufactured and rolled out across Delta’s network. 


Source: Delta Air Lines


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