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Alaska Airlines is phasing out single-use plastic stirrer straws and citrus picks in favor of more sustainable options, the Seattle-based airline announced Monday.

Starting July 16, 2018, the carrier will replace the plastic items in its airport lounges and on all of its domestic and international flights. Instead, customers will be given white birch stirrer sticks for hot beverages like coffee and tea, and a bamboo alternative will replace the plastic citrus picks to garnish cocktails and other drinks.

Passengers with special needs will be able to request a “non-plastic, marine-friendly” straw for their drinks, Alaska said.

Alaska Airlines handed out 22 million plastic stir straws and citrus picks in 2017. Plastic straws are especially dangerous to the environment because research shows they kill birds and marine life.

“Plastic pollution is causing devastating marine life issues with plastic now found in the bellies of whales, turtles, and more including seabirds, of which 99% of all species are expected to have ingested plastic by the year 2050,” Dune Ives, the executive director of Lonely Whale, a nonprofit environmental organization that partnered with Alaska on the recycling issue, told USA Today.

Americans use about 500 million straws daily, according to the National Park Service.

Previously, Alaska switched from serving bottled beer to a canned version because the carrier says aluminum is lighter and easier to recycle. It also has a policy to refill plastic cups as part of its beverage service — rather than use a new cup for every round of drinks.

The sustainable drink alternatives are a part of Alaska’s recycling program, which it started in 2010. In the eight years since the program began, the airline’s flight attendants have collected 12,000 tons of recyclables from flights — the same weight of about 244 Boeing 737-900ERs.

Featured image by Alaska Airlines.

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