This Popular Airline Is Set To Make An Eco-Friendly Change To Their Beverage Service

Ah, that smell of fresh coffee brewing in an airplane cabin. There's nothing like that first cup of Joe after trying to sleep upright for a few hours on a plane. Or perhaps you're more of a cocktail person, slugging back something to help quell your nerves. Whatever you fancy, there's an art to the cup you're holding — and it's not as simple as you think. After testing multiple versions for years, Delta Airlines believes they've nailed down the perfect prototype.

Soon, the carrier will do away with all plastic-lined paper cups in favor of pure paper ones, which will be fully compostable and eliminate 7 million pounds of single-use plastics per year. This latest change is in line with the carrier's plan to decarbonize its business model as much as possible and minimize single-use plastics by 2025, with 4.9 million pounds removed from operations already, according to an airline report.

Logistics and sustainability

Cups can be tricky business. They must keep your coffee and tea hot, soda and juice cold, and withstand alcohol, which tends to dissolve the material. They also need to be stackable for convenience yet easy to separate so they don't hold up flight attendants during beverage service. Plus, on top of U.S. regulations, they need to meet strict international regulations as well. Then, on top of that, there's the environmental implications to think about. The perfect cup, it turns out, is not so easy to nail down, but Delta worked with multiple suppliers to get the job done.

At one point, the carrier was exploring reusable material before settling on paper-based cups — and perhaps, in the post-pandemic world, that's for the best. The final round of testing started on December 5, 2023, on select domestic flights and will end in the spring of 2024. At that point, the plastic cups of yore will make a brief reappearance while the manufacturer doles out enough paper cups to sustain 900-plus aircrafts in Delta's fleet.

Green changes in the aviation industry

The aviation industry is responsible for 2% of emissions around the world. While it's the jet fuel that has the most impact on the environment, the airline believes this plastic-to-paper switch is one visible, tangible way to minimize the carbon footprint and demonstrate to customers that positive change is on the horizon, said Delta's Chief Sustainability Officer Amelia DeLuca via Delta's website.

Other airlines and airports are incorporating similar policies. Air France and British Airways were ahead of the curve, with both phasing out single-use plastics over the last few years. Alaska Airlines became the first American carrier to ditch plastic cups in January of 2023. On the ground, Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) and San Francisco International Airport (SFO) forbid the sale of plastic water bottles, favoring aluminum and cardboard instead. Dallas Fort Worth International Airport (DFW) has said sayonara to plastic straws. Whether you love the movement or hate the idea of drinking wine out of a paper cup, slowly by surely, it seems the tide is turning.