United Airlines to replace its hot beverage cups with a fully recyclable version made from plastic bottles
(photo: United Airlines)
Tue 18 Feb 2014 – United Airlines is to replace its non-recyclable Styrofoam hot beverage cups with a fully recyclable cup made from up to 50 per cent recycled materials. The eco-friendly, insulating InCycle cup is manufactured by Washington-based MicroGREEN using a waterless, additive-free recycling process in which over four cups can be made from a single recycled PET plastic water bottle. The InCycle cup is already in service at Alaska Airlines and the technology has won a number of green innovation awards. United says it is reviewing its operational recycling efforts to find ways to reduce waste and to increase recycling within its system. This includes a re-design of the airline’s inflight recycling policy and procedures to simplify the process for flight attendants, generate increased recycling volumes and minimise waste.
“At United, we are constantly working to improve the sustainability of our products and reduce our waste at the same time,” said Angela Foster-Rice, United’s Managing Director of Global Environmental Affairs and Sustainability. “This new cup is not only aligned with our overall Eco-Skies commitment to the environment, it is another way our customers can feel good about flying with us.”
The InCycle cup will be introduced to the United Club beverage service this month and on United flights from mid-March.
According to MicroGREEN, the insulating cup is between 50% and 80% lower weight than existing cups with comparable stiffness and claims the cup’s microstructure provides enhanced durability over solid plastic. The production process makes PET lightweight without using chemical blowing agents and as the plastic is not chemically altered, it can be recycled at the end of its life. The technology lowers the raw material cost and reduces the weight while improving the functionality, says the company, which was founded in 2006 by graduate researchers from the University of Washington.
Over the past six years, United says it has recycled 23.5 million pounds (10,600 tonnes) of aluminium cans, paper and plastic from waste generated on board aircraft and in its facilities.
The airline also reports that in 2013 it reduced CO2 emissions by 811,643 tonnes and fuel consumption by 95 million gallons through fuel efficiency initiatives, exceeding its goal of reducing fuel consumption by 85 million gallons.