Water from a box? Alaska Airlines swaps single-use plastic bottles for eco-friendly brand

Nov 3, 2021

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Alaska Airlines takes a forward step in sustainability on Thursday, Nov. 4, by swapping out single-use plastic water bottles and plastic cups for Boxed Water Is Better brand cartons and recyclable paper cups in the main cabin on all its flights.

When it does, the carrier says it will be the first in the industry to move completely away from plastic for its water service.

The switch, which the Seattle-based carrier and the Holland, Michigan-based boxed water company have been working on for more than a year, will eliminate about 32 million plastic water bottles and 22 million plastics cups per year from Alaska flights.

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“That’s 1.8 million pounds of single use plastics per year, or the equivalent of 18 Boeing 737s,” Todd Traynor-Corey, managing director of guest products for Alaska, said at “The Hub,” the airline’s corporate office near Seattle-Tacoma International Airport.

Alaska, which was the first airline to eliminate plastic straws and stirring sticks — and one of the first airlines to do in-flight recycling — was looking for ways to get more sustainable products on its aircraft and eliminate more waste.

“In 2019, we were serving more than 40 million guests per year. And we realized that single-use plastics was a big problem. That got us looking for alternatives to plastic water bottles in the marketplace,” said Traynor-Corey.

Alaska Airlines is rolling out its ‘Boxed Water’ brand water across its network. (Photo courtesy of Alaska Airlines)

The airline looked at water that came in cans, in pouches, and in other containers. And then they found the Boxed Water brand, which offers a fully recyclable carton of water, sealed with a plant-based cap.

Before deciding to make the switch, though, Alaska did research and testing. “We tested the supply chain to make sure we could ship the water cartons across our system. We wanted to make sure Boxed Water could keep up the demand. We also wanted to make sure that the boxes wouldn’t leak, that our flight attendants had no issues serving it, and that the guests liked it,” said Traynor-Corey.

In early 2021, Alaska began serving Boxed Water on the carrier’s Horizon Air-operated regional flights and then nationwide in the First-Class cabin. Passengers like it, so Alaska moved forward with its plan to switch out plastic water bottles for water cartons in the main cabin and for replacing plastic water cups with paper ones.

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First Class passengers are being served Boxed Water in single-serve containers. “But we had to make a decision about how to serve it in the main cabin,” said Traynor-Corey. “And we figured out that the most efficient and most sustainable way to do that is to pour it into paper cups from the one-liter Boxed Water cartons.”

Having Alaska Airlines make the switch from plastic single-serve water bottles to the Boxed Water cartons, “shows that the company cares and is serious about doing something about waste reduction,” said Daryn Kuipers, CEO of Boxed Water. “We started this company 10 years ago and work with corporations, conference halls, aquariums, grade schools, colleges, and museums, but having Alaska Airlines is a turning point for awareness for us in the industry.”

While eliminating single-use water bottles and plastic cold drink cups is a significant move that “we hope encourages our guests and our competitors to start moving towards more sustainable solutions,” says Traynor-Corey, the airline isn’t stopping there. In the cabin, teams are eyeing what else can be made more sustainable, like the cups being used for hot liquids and alcohol, and the plastic lids that cover the airline’s signature fruit & cheese plate and other meals.

Featured image courtesy of Alaska Airlines.


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