Alaska Airlines recycling

Yes, there was a time when airline travel was considered glamorous. But, in recent years, airline travel has become less about luxury and more about the cost — both economical and environmental. As air travel remains necessary for many, here is question to consider: How does your airline of choice handle its operational waste? According to a study published in February 2010 by Green America (“What Goes Up Must Come Down: The Sorry State of Recycling in the Airline Industry”), the average airline passenger generates 1.3 pounds of waste per flight. In 2008, this translated to 881 million pounds of waste. Approximately 50% of this waste is generated during the flight. Astoundingly, 75% of that is recyclable, but only about 20% is actually recycled. That means a lot of soda cans and pretzel wrappers are going into our landfills. This report, self-admittedly, is not a complete overview of the airline industry, but it does provide a snapshot of a range of carriers within the industry, and the picture it paints is not a pretty one. There is, however, a bright spot in eco-air travel. Alaska Airlines was not one of the 11 airlines ranked in the study, but it is dedicated to sustainable practices that should be industry standards. For example, in 2008, Alaska expanded its in-flight recycling program from only aluminum cans to include paper, plastics and glass. Currently, the following materials are collected and recycled on Alaska flights: paper, cardboard, coffee cups, plastic bottles, cold cups, snack trays, aluminum cans and glass bottles. Along with its sister carrier, Horizon Air, Alaska has diverted more than 300 tons of waste from landfills each and every year. That’s more like it. Until the airline industry as a whole steps up to the sustainability plate, we can let carriers know that environmental responsibility is a factor in our choice of travel partners. Another idea: Until all airlines have in-flight recycling programs in place, take your recyclable items off the plane with you and make sure they are disposed of properly in the airport or at a nearby drop-off location. For more information, see Alaska Airlines’ Environmental and Social Responsibility page. Would you rather travel on the ground? See how Amtrak is improving its recycling programs.