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Following similar moves by Alaska, American and other travel service providers, United Airlines just became the latest US carrier to give a formal farewell to the plastic straw. That’s great news, in theory, but it doesn’t exactly seem like a tremendous sacrifice. I don’t think I’ve ever been offered a straw on United — come to think of it, I’ve never seen a proper plastic straw on any airline, ever.

The airline’s blue plastic cups are much more common, though fortunately they’re recyclable, and in the process of being replaced in premium cabins. Meanwhile, with this new United announcement, the airline will be “eliminating non-recyclable plastic stirring sticks and cocktail picks on our aircraft, and replacing them with an environmentally-friendly alternative made out of bamboo.” The shift will begin in November.

There’s still plenty of work to be done, though — United’s snack boxes alone generate significant waste:

As the airline points out, products made from plastic can take up to 22 years to degrade, and even then they don’t disappear completely. The airline provides some other helpful suggestions as well, including:

  • Bring along a refillable bottle to use while you travel
  • Make sure to recycle any paper products like old magazines or newspapers
  • Separate your garbage items from your recyclable items until collected by a flight attendant
  • Use the United mobile app instead of a paper boarding pass

We’ve seen the press releases, but with more and more airlines jumping on the #SheddTheStraw bandwagon, do you think these in-flight replacements are worth all the hubbub? Have you ever used a plastic straw on an airplane?

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