Another great Chris Jordan image: 1 million disposable cups - the amount used by airline flights in the US every six hours.

Once again, Chris Jordan with a commanding use of aesthetics. This is as remarkable as it is horrendous. Go below the fold to zoom into the image.

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Wow...that's...staggering....

By Luna_the_cat (not verified) on 19 Jun 2008 #permalink

On a recent flight I took on Alaska Airlines, I learned two interesting facts about cup usage on that carrier:

1. The attendants request you to keep the cups between refills so that each passenger only uses one per flight.

2. When the cups ARE collected, they are separated from the other refuse (napkins, wrappers, ice) so that they may be recycled on the ground.

Furthermore the flight attendants on Alaska Air sort through all of their garbage to isolate recyclable cardboard, aluminum and plastic.

I was impressed.

That's...just...depressing beyond belief. Every six hours?

Things like this remind me why I'm pretty much a pessimist about the future.

It is overwhelming to think about the waste generated by disposable cups on airlines. I am impressed to hear Alaska Airlines takes steps to minimize use and to recycle. However, there must be an even better way. Reusable cups? Giving those who ask for soft drinks the can? Those who ask for water are given a bottle, no cup? (Which is yet another form of waste generation). We need to rethink the way we live and act to minimize our impact even further.

By a reinert (not verified) on 24 Jun 2008 #permalink

If you ask me, I don't understand why cabins are pressurized in the first place.. why not just let the passengers pass out after reaching 5000 feet, this way no assholes making noise on the onboard phones, no kids crying.. no 1 million plastic cups per 6 hours.

[evil laugh]

Boy, and imagine what that figure is worldwide.

How is this surprising to anyone? How many cups do you think McDonald's goes through every 10 minutes? Even every 1 minute.

By David Ingmire (not verified) on 24 Jun 2008 #permalink

It's easy to be impressed by such numbers and it is even easier to show the horror of the anti green policy.

But the logistics of using reusable glasses, collecting them, moving them, washing them and then redistribute them might very well be less green than using disposable cups and recycling them.

By Helgi Gunnarsson (not verified) on 24 Jun 2008 #permalink

The resources used to make the cups is a drop in the ocean compared to the resources used to keep the planes up in the sky in the first place.

In many cases the environmental impact of using disposable plastic cups is less than using glassware - glassware has to be cleaned, and that means energy consumption for autoclave temperatures, and dirtied water which includes detergents that ultimately end up in the environment since these typically survive waste water treatment.

Plastic cups also weigh a lot less, so that's less fuel burned carting them all around the globe repeatedly.

That said, I agree, they should just give you the can unless you specifically ask for a cup for ice. Or maybe design special cans for airplanes and the like that the whole top can be removed to add ice.

The best solution would be for each passenger to bring their own cup. You have that huge carry on suitcase with you, I'm sure there is enough room to cram a small dish washable plastic cup in there for the ride.
That being said, I think fast food joints should allow the same. I'll still pay $1-2 for a soda if you let me use my own cup. I mean charge $1 if you have your own cup and $.40 more to get one from them.

I don't see why they shouldn't just use paper instead. Paper is nicer to hold to, and is much more solid. It is also renewable, and bio-degradable. They use it in Norway (at least for tea/coffe).

Why do people need food and drink just because they sit in an airplane for a few hours?? People ride buses, bicycles, waterskis, windsurfers, motorcycles and cars for hours without requiring refills every 5 minutes.
This is a leftover from the old days when flying was something special for a select few, but nowadays it is only a necessary evil one have to endure to get from A to B.

The airports should have free services instead while we wait to get on our way.

Pal says: "Why do people need food and drink just because they sit in an airplane for a few hours?? People ride buses, bicycles, waterskis, windsurfers, motorcycles and cars for hours without requiring refills every 5 minutes.
This is a leftover from the old days when flying was something special for a select few, but nowadays it is only a necessary evil one have to endure to get from A to B."

Airlines are a public conveyance and must meet standards for safety and yes comfort. People flying include aged, sick, children-- and you're going to take water away from them?

"A few hours" ignores the 40,000 passengers who fly across the Atlantic each week (6-8 hours) and about the same number across the Pacific (11-18 hours). What a nitwit.

Terry

Thanks WolfZombie, No and Pal for those fresh ideas + perspectives.

By Demetrius@vegand.net (not verified) on 24 Jun 2008 #permalink

Pat,
Many people actually need something to drink for the flight and it is certainly more comforting for the rest. Note that you can no longer bring your own beverages and will often be stuck on a plane for 5+ hours for domestic flights, let alone transcontinental. Most people do not ever go that long without a drink except while asleep.

the production of plastic is toxic and recycling not only uses energy, but also produces waste (just less waste, perhaps, than throwing out the plastic).

the production of glass wastes a tonne of energy and releases a lot of waste and the maintenance of glass also uses energy and produces waste.

eliminating either is not likely going to solve the problem; people still need a drink once in a while.

perhaps we can turn to materials research to provide us with a new material that is less toxic to produce and creates very little waste.

either way, technology is technology. the only way to be "green" is to live in a grass hut and cultivate the land around you.

we have to speed up, not slow down, technology research.

Take personal responsibility.
When (and if) you fly . . . bring your own water.
Refuse what the attendant offers.

Lets say that half the world goes to McDonald's once every 40 days, 3billion divided by 960 hours = 3,125,000 meals per hour. (this post was to made to build upon an earlier comment)

Forget giving cans only or reusable cups. Just siphon drinks straight to the seats like the oxygen masks drop down from above. Give each passenger a little tip at the beginning of the flight. Or standardize it so people can purchase their own little nifty tips from third party companies. Just plug and drink your bladder off.

By Monkey804 (not verified) on 24 Jun 2008 #permalink

Apparently they used to waste 3 times as many olives just a few years ago. I wonder where all these cups end up.

US airline traffic during *holidays* peaks at about 2 million passengers per *day*.

I think the "million cups every six hours" statistic might be exaggerated slightly.

By Technopope (not verified) on 24 Jun 2008 #permalink

I flew porter air and they gave us beverages in glasses, but as soon as there was some turbulance they passed out plastic cups to everyone with drinks left and collected the glass. I guess glass on a plane is a bit of a safety threat.

Why not let the customer, if they wish to do so, purchase a screw-top soda or water (or the airline could provide them, BEFORE the flight, and not on the flight to save weight); thus only those who want one will have one, the screw-top keeps the spills down (and these plastic cups of ice are not very convenient, and the guy next to me always seems to spill them, on me and/or the tray table).

Seems simple. They could maybe have water, which you could ask for a bottle and they could bring. No more up and down the aisles except for longer flights, meaning less attendants..

The airlines look to boost revenue from charging for bags, but don't seem to look to cut costs in any way that makes sense, other than cutting wages, which makes for unhappy employees.

OR... the TSA could relax their silly "no liquid containers over 3 oz." policy. The threat was just speculative, and the defense useless even if the threat were non-fiction.

Paper cups would kill more trees

possible solution: biodegradable plastic cups. they decompose after 90 days in the landfill

By Faraz Khan (not verified) on 24 Jun 2008 #permalink

this is bad ...
now someone is gonna put out a petition or a lobby group to stops cups being used in flights ...
we've gotta have some new form delivery system ...
:P

Take a small cup with you, no big deal.

CUPS? WHAT ABOUT ALL THE WASTED ICE AND FOOD? I HEARD YEARS AGO ABOUT AN AIRLINE THAT WOULD SAVE $40K A YEAR BY LEAVING OFF ONE OLIVE IN EVERY SALAD SERVED IN FIRST CLASS...AIRLINES ALREADY HAVE RECYCLING PROGRAMS IN EFFECT...HOW ABOUT WORRYING A LOT MORE ABOUT WHERE YOUR PLANE IS BEING REPAIRED (EL SAVADOR OR COSTA RICA)??? DID YOU KNOW THESE PLANES ARE FLOWN THERE EMPTY AND FLOWN BACK EMPTY? BY PEOPLE WHOSE TRAINING AND SKILLS ARE ONLY CHECKED BY THE FAA ONCE A YEAR? THE REASON THEY ARE USED IS THAT THEY MAKE ABOUT 1/3 AS MUCH AS A FULLY TRAINED MECHANIC HERE? THAT REALLY SCARES ME! HOW ABOUT THE INCREASING NUMBER OF CLOSE CALLS AT AIRPORTS?

WAKE UP PEOPLE!!!

This is insane to think about. Just think that this is just the Airline Companies. Think of all the other companies in the world like Burger King, etc.

The answer is bioplastics. They should be used on flights because they don't weigh much. Glass isn't the answer because of impact with washing and transporting. The bioplastics should be sorted for recycling and if they aren't recycled they'll be gone from the planet within a year! People are too selfish to take their own cups and companies are too selfish to pay more for other solutions. Another problem with these cups is that some airports incinerate garbage and plastic cups release neurotoxins into the air when burned.

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