Alaska Airlines went through 22 million single-use plastic straws and citrus picks last year.
Starting this summer, the brand will never serve either item again, becoming the first US airline to ban plastic straws on its planes and in its lounges, according to a press release.
The company joins a growing list of brands across industries that are finding alternatives to plastic straws because of the ecological impact of plastic pollution.
Alaska Airlines is also replacing aseptic juice boxes with aluminum cans that are easier to recycle.
The airline was partly inspired to ditch plastic straws by a 16-year-old Girl Scout named Shelby O’Neil, and the company worked with the environmental nonprofit Lonely Whale to make this goal a reality.
“My hope is that we can continue to rally together and inspire future generations to take a stand and eliminate plastic pollution to help save our oceans,” O’Neil said in a statement.
Non-plastic, marine-friendly straws will only be provided upon request because, as Lonely Whale points out, straws are unnecessary in many circumstances and do not have to be the default. Instead of citrus picks, Alaska Airlines will serve white birch stir sticks and bamboo picks.
"Assisting Alaska Airlines in removing plastic straws is an incredible opportunity," said Dune Ives, Lonely Whale’s executive director, in the press release.
“The banning of single-use plastic beverage straws sets a new standard for the travel industry, and we couldn't be happier that Alaska Airlines is the first US airline to lead the charge,” she added.
These efforts are part of the airline’s larger plan to cut passenger waste sent to landfills by 70% by 2020.
"Building on our grassroots, employee-led recycling program, we're thrilled to take the next step to protecting our land and oceans by removing single-use non-recyclable plastic straws from our planes," said Jacqueline Drumheller, sustainability manager for Alaska Airlines, in the press release.
In the US, 500 million straws are used each day and the vast majority are never recycled, ending up in landfills or ecosystems. Plastic straws are especially troublesome in marine environments, where they can stab or be swallowed by animals.
Lonely Whale’s #StopSucking campaign enlists companies and individuals to reduce single-use plastic straws, with the ultimate goal of ending their use around the world.
Global Citizen campaigns to eliminate single-use plastic production and you can take action on this issue here.