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Bring your own water bottle: Alaska Airlines broadens plastic use reduction program

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Trash is a major problem in our oceans, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Here's how long it takes for some of the most common types of trash to decompose — including straws, plastic bags and balloons.

Alaska Airlines really doesn’t want to be dispensing ice water to you in Earth-polluting plastic bottles or cups when you can bring your own reusable bottle.

As part of its single-use plastic reduction program, the airline has launched #FillBeforeYouFly. It is asking passengers to bring their own water bottles and to fill them pre-flight.

“If just 10 percent of our guests bring their own pre-filled water bottle when they fly and choose reusables, it could save more than 700,000 plastic water bottles and 4 million plastic cups per year. That’s a big lift,” said Diana Birkett Rakow, Alaska Airlines’ vice president of external relations.

The airline notes that plastic bottles are among the top five most common items found in beach cleanups around the world.

As an incentive to passengers, the airline said in a news release it will plant a tree for every passenger who brings a pre-filled water bottle onto an Alaska flight and posts a photo to social media tagging @AlaskaAir with the hashtag #FillBeforeYouFly.

The airline has partnered with environmental groups Lonely Whale, MiiR and Bonneville Environmental Foundation as well as Sea-Tac International Airport.

Bonneville Environmental Foundation has set a goal with the airline to plant 1 million trees on the West Coast to help reduce pollution and boost wildlife habitats.

Alaska says it’s important for passengers to remember to fill the bottles before boarding because “Alaska policy doesn’t allow for personal water bottles to be filled directly during inflight beverage service. The policy is in place to manage the limited quantities of water available on flights.”

Also, don’t fill ahead of your security check through TSA, as liquid amounts are still restricted to 3.4 ounces or less, stored in a one quart/liter zip-top bag. Empty containers, though, are fine.

The airline in 2018 was the first major U.S. carrier to replace plastic straws and fruit picks on planes with marine-friendly alternatives. It’s also replaced bottled beer in flight with aluminum cans to reduce weight and ease recycling.

Alaska says it is seeking alternatives to plastic water bottles for those who want them in flight, as well as plastic cups.

In the past nine years, the airline says it has captured more than 15,000 tons of recyclable materials from passengers, “about the same weight as 320 Boeing 737-900ERs.”

More information about Alaska’s program is on its blog online.

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