Bad Idea: Delta Trials Reusable Plastic Cups on Flights

by Anthony Losanno
Delta Air Lines Cups

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Delta Air Lines generates nearly seven million pounds of plastic waste each year on its flights. In an effort to curb this, Delta is testing out alternatives including a reusable cup system and new paper cups.

Changing cups and cutting waste offers Delta the opportunity to reduce its huge, single-use plastic footprint in flight. Getting this right is a challenge.  The plastic replacement needs to withstand hot and cold beverages and be appealing to customers. I’m pretty sketched out by the thought of using a reusable plastic cup. Glassware doesn’t bother me, but this doesn’t sit right. I’d be thinking about this plastic cup being in someone else’s mouth and might skip the beverage service altogether.

Delta Air Lines Cups 2

It does seem to have a potentially large environmental impact. During the test, crew separated items such as reusable cups and recyclable materials from general waste. This will undoubtedly help towards Delta’s goal of 65% waste diversion from landfill by 2035. Delta is also working to adopt a new process to recycle “pulpable” paper products including ear bud wrappers, flight fuel boxes, and papers cups.

Pam Fletcher, Delta’s Chief Sustainability Officer, commented:

Sustainability isn’t only good for our planet, it’s a business imperative that requires meaningful action today. That’s why this year’s flights focused on scalable solutions that can be put into play more broadly in the short and medium terms.”

This is only one of many initiatives that the airline is working on and each one of them will have a material impact.

Anthony’s Take: It’s good to see that Delta is working to make strides in being more sustainable, but I’m not onboard with these cups. I’d prefer a recycled paper cup that is disposed of after the flight.

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askmrlee June 1, 2023 - 12:09 pm

Glassware doesn’t bother me, but this doesn’t sit right. I’d be thinking about this plastic cup being in someone else’s mouth and might skip the beverage service altogether.

Restaurants have long used durable plastic cups, so why would this be any different? Why the OK with glassware in First Class but not plastic cups in Economy? Too many people? That glassware was also in someone’s mouth before it was cleaned.

Frankfurt Airport Lufthansa
Anthony Losanno June 1, 2023 - 12:19 pm

I don’t see this as a durable plastic cups and picture teeth marks and stains on it. Glassware doesn’t have those issues.

Bob June 1, 2023 - 2:35 pm

I see where you’re coming from with regards to restaurants using durable plastic cups however those are almost always accompanied with straws for the very reason that most people don’t like to drink directly from the cup.

As with most green initiatives, I question the actual green savings here. These are thick plastic cups using more material than the disposable version. How much more energy does that use to create it and whats the lifespan on these things? I can picture customers taking these cups as a souvenir quite often too. I imagine a lot of drinking games being played with these in the future.

Sam June 1, 2023 - 2:10 pm

This is an irresponsible and arrogant take, given the waste crisis we’re facing. Like the commenter above, restaurants already have reusable cups and these are cleaned between use. Planes should be no different. You shouldn’t be in any communal space if this was the case, Anthony.

Frankfurt Airport Lufthansa
Anthony Losanno June 1, 2023 - 2:12 pm

I agree that something needs to be done. I’d be happy with a recycled paper cup or a thick plastic reusable cup. These look cheap compared to what restaurants have and I feel like they would not be very appealing after a use.

The June 2, 2023 - 9:39 am

Pinhead comment

NedsKid June 1, 2023 - 2:31 pm

I am with you completely. It reminds me of the plastic reusable cups given at like a theme park. Teeth marks show and the plastic can stain. Different than a sit down restaurant because most people use straws.

Elizabeth June 1, 2023 - 7:11 pm

Your preference is your preference. That’s fine. But don’t speak on what you don’t know. There would obviously be a process to remove damaged/unappealing cups from the system as there is with all service ware and the cups would be cleaned the same way the first class glass is. In regards to your sustainability claims, Where’s the data supporting any of your “preferences” or “feelings”? How do you think you know the amount of plastic waste that Delta has on flights? You’re throwing out brash statements that appear to be hearsay. If not, then prove me wrong.
You’ve never even seen, held or heard of the cup to actually know. You have no idea of the context and no idea of the positive impact these would have because you lack the understanding of an airline’s operation.

Ben June 1, 2023 - 9:55 pm

These look like the plastic reusable cups I’ve seen at an all inclusive for their “to-go” cups (ie leave the bar and go elsewhere on the resort with it). I never saw any issues like what you stated.

Stan F June 2, 2023 - 3:39 pm

So if these cups are taken care of like the rest of the reusable items on a flight – plates, flatware, etc, I would have no problem using these cups. If anyone has gone into a Food Kitchen that serves airline food and cleans the equipment, you would be surprised as to the extent the cleaning is done. It is more than just what you see at a theme park, as NEDSKID said in their post. The angle of a flight kitchen is first, and foremost and only the safety of the food and items that come out of there to service on a flight. The last thing any of these flight kitchens can afford is anyone getting sick on anything they have their hands on – from food to food equipment.

So if these cups are held to the standard that everything else is, this will be fine. The question is how to reduce the amount of material it takes to clean these items.

roger June 3, 2023 - 7:56 am

Dumb idea and another attempt by DELTA to be ‘trendy’ and leading the way in a gesture to get free press. This Airline has bigger issues to deal with than introducing reusable drinking cups.

Brenda Tickler June 3, 2023 - 9:34 am

Anthony, you sound like a huge wimp. Stay home.

Gary June 3, 2023 - 10:57 am

The reason restaurants use thick plastic reusable cups is because they use a more environmentally friendly soda fountain as opposed to canned soft drinks.
Delta uses canned soft drinks, which ironically are conveniently made so you can drink right out of them, no cup needed.

Mikael June 18, 2023 - 5:08 pm

Let them try and evaluate. I think ot is a good idea. I never flew with Delta but most cups I had on airplanes are shit anyway


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