Crushed water bottle
Photograph ©2017 by Brian Cohen.

Alaska Airlines Eliminates Plastic From Its Water Service Aboard Airplanes

The airline is the latest company to announce further reductions on the use of plastic.

In the latest salvo of the war against plastic waste, passengers aboard airplanes which are operated by Alaska Airlines will be served water from cartons into paper cups which can be recycled effective as of tomorrow, Thursday, November 4, 2021, which is estimated to save 1.8 million pounds of single-use plastics from flights over the next year — which is equivalent to the weight of 18 Boeing 737 airplanes.

Alaska Airlines Eliminates Plastic From Its Water Service Aboard Airplanes

Bottle of water
Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

“Inflight water service is the most significant contributor of onboard plastic waste”, according to this official press release from Alaska Airlines. “The switch to more sustainable solutions will effectively remove 22 million plastic cups and 32 million plastic bottles per year from Alaska flights.”

The cartons of Boxed Water Is Better — which is the name of the brand of water which will be served — are 92 percent plant-based, as they are manufactured from sustainably harvested trees and are fully recyclable.

Alaska Airlines became the first airline to offer Boxed Water Is Better earlier this year to passengers seated in the first class cabin and aboard airplanes operated by Horizon Air. The trial was a success with both passengers and employees, as the renewable packaged water alternative was reportedly preferred over plastic bottled water at a rate of two to one.

Plastic takes greater than 400 years to degrade, so most of it still exists in some form: “We estimate that 8300 million metric tons (Mt) as of virgin plastics have been produced to date”, according to this publication from Roland Geyer, Jenna R Jambeck, and Kara Lavender Law for the National Library of Medicine of the National Center for Biotechnology Information. “As of 2015, approximately 6300 Mt of plastic waste had been generated, around 9% of which had been recycled, 12% was incinerated, and 79% was accumulated in landfills or the natural environment. If current production and waste management trends continue, roughly 12,000 Mt of plastic waste will be in landfills or in the natural environment by 2050.”

Empire State Building New York
Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

If present trends are allowed to continue, approximately 12 billion metric tons of plastic will be in landfills by 2050 — which is 35,000 times as heavy as the Empire State Building.

This initiative is part of the continued leadership of Alaska Airlines in the reduction of waste during flights — from onboard recycling to being the first airline to eliminate plastic straws and stir sticks in 2018 — and the airline has eliminated hundreds of single-use waste items and pioneered fresh food for pre-order using industry-leading technology to ensure that customers can get exactly what they want. Offering fresh food for purchase via pre-order has dramatically decreased the food waste that was experienced prior to the current 2019 Novel Coronavirus pandemic.

Also effective as of tomorrow, Thursday, November 4, 2021, more food options will be added by Alaska Airlines for customers via pre-order technology.

Significantly reducing inflight waste is one of the sustainability goals for carbon, waste, and water by Alaska Airlines. Earlier in 2021, Alaska Airlines announced a strategy to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2040 — with near-term 2025 targets to be the most fuel-efficient airline in the United States by 2025 — and to reduce climate emissions from ground equipment by half.

Final Boarding Call

Water jugs
Photograph ©2016 by Brian Cohen.

“Only approximately nine percent of the 350 million tons of plastic which humans produce each year is recycled”, according to this article pertaining to whether there is any hope for plastic recycling which I wrote here at The Gate on Thursday, April 22, 2021. “…almost 35.7 million tons of plastic was produced in the United States alone in 2018.”

Guests at hotel and resort properties who prefer using single use bottles of toiletries, straws, and other items manufactured out of plastic which are intended to be used only once or a few times may not see the value proposition of using bulk dispensers of products instead in order to reduce the footprint of pollution which is caused by plastic.

One of the 37 bills which Gavin Newsom signed into law as of Wednesday, October 9, 2019 was a bill to ban personal care products in the form of miniature plastic toiletry bottles — which contain fewer than 12 ounces of liquid product — from lodging establishments in California to become effective as of Sunday, January 1, 2023. Only eight days earlier, the state of New York announced the intent in seeking to enact a similar law.

As I wrote in this article last year, my preference is to have the choice of whether or not I want the small containers of toiletries — reasons which both support and oppose them are listed in this article — but I am likely in the minority regarding that opinion…

…and while I am not panicking about “global warming” and fearing the catastrophic effects to the environment which some people claim will occur, I believe we should do everything we can — within reason and within our power — to control the amount of pollution caused by plastic. For example, I prefer to purchase small souvenirs from other countries rather than souvenirs which are stamped out by some production line in some faraway country which offers little value, in my opinion — which was one of the three reasons which I did not like the souq at Muttrah Corniche in Muscat in Oman. You can find out nine other tips pertaining to purchasing souvenirs in this article.

I also attempt to repurpose items which may otherwise wind up in a landfill or burnt. For example, I use clean jugs for drinking water to reclaim water which would otherwise be wasted.

Other articles pertaining to plastic waste and recycling include:

All photographs ©2015, ©2016, and ©2017 by Brian Cohen.

  1. While I appreciate the idea behind this new procedure… ICK!!!

    In a time when people are hyper-cautious about sanitary conditions – to the point of insane ongoing mask use, why would anyone want their beverage randomly stored and poured aboard a plane into a random paper cup? Single-serve containers are far more wasteful but far more sanitary!

  2. Ok, a little thing is better than nothing. A bigger thing would be not to fly on any airline and for the airlines to have maybe one or two flights per day using an A321 or 777 instead of multiple 737 flights. That would be inconvenient, though.

  3. Wow, so they’re going to kill trees now. I can’t believe these brutes. Instead of recycling the plastic they use, they’re going to murder more trees which we need to survive. I’m sure Greta would be appalled to see how wasteful Alaska is. AS are turning into a blatant enemy of nature!

    Ok, but in all seriousness, can they please bring back glassware in First. Like, how much more pleb do they need to get?

  4. Boxed water is gross. They had it in the AA lounge at JFK and it was disgusting.

    This move does nothing to help the environment. As long as plastic bottles are recycled, there is limited waste generated. The energy to make cartoons and use paper cups is more than to use plastic.

    Airlines would be right to stop pouring drinks into plastic cups because it is dangerous for beverages to be poured in open containers that can spill. Every passenger should be given mini plastic bottles whether it’s coke or water so they can close it when they are not using it and can drink it later.

    The Alaskan government should just ban Alaska airlines from entering its state. They should hire state troopers to seize the planes if they land. I’m sure there is a no woke airline who is ready to swoop in.

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