Delta Air Lines is eliminating plastic straws and several other single-use plastics from its flights and airport clubs.
It's the latest U.S. corporation to nix plastic straws, but the airline said Wednesday it's doing much more than that.
Plastic straws and stir sticks will be replaced by ones made of bamboo and birchwood. Delta will also replace the disposable plates, utensils, bowls and buffet dishware used in its airport Sky Clubs with compostable, biodegradable or reusable alternatives. It will also remove the outer plastic wrappers on its first-class amenity kits.
The move follows Delta's announcement in April that it would no longer put plastic wrap around utensils offered to coach passengers on international flights. Instead, customers receive their knife-spoon-fork combination in a rolled napkin. The airline still uses plastic wrap on its domestic flights, which serve fewer meals requiring utensils.
Alaska Airlines announced in May plans to remove all plastic straws and stir sticks in favor of "marine-friendly alternatives." American Airlines followed in July with its own plastic-straw ban, and United Airlines announced its own similar ban last month.
Delta executives said they are not simply following the herd.
"It's really not a reaction," Christine Boucher, managing director of sustainability and compliance, said Wednesday. "We have been working on this single-use plastics reduction for close to two years now."
Many of the changes Delta plans to make in its 51 Sky Clubs were pioneered at the company's Minneapolis office, where plastic foam products have been eliminated since 2015.
Delta will now stop using plastic foam products at its Atlanta headquarters' cafeterias. The airline has composted several products, with assistance of the local airport agencies, at its Sky Club at the Seattle airport since 2015 and its two Sky Clubs at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport since last year.
By replacing these products, Delta said it will prevent 300,000 pounds of plastics a year from reaching landfills. That's the weight equivalent of more than two Boeing 757s.
The airline is the dominant carrier at the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport, providing about 70 percent of the flights.
Young people and Delta employees are inspiring many of Delta's plastics-reduction initiatives, Boucher said. Teenage siblings Carter Ries and Olivia Ries of Georgia, who founded a conservation group called One More Generation, as well as Shelby O'Neil, the California teen who founded Jr. Ocean Guardians and who also lobbied for Alaska Airlines' straw ban, all reached out to Delta to request that it stop using plastic straws.
"This next generation has some really innovative ideas. They really help us take a closer look at what we are doing," Boucher said. "It's exciting for me, and it's exciting for our employees."
Boucher said switching from plastic to environmentally friendly alternatives will cost more. But, she said, "Our investment is worth it."