July 31, 2019
WASHINGTON, DC— Ahead of the premiere of Discovery’s week-long event “Shark Week,” activist group SumOfUs has launched a digital brand attack on Southwest Airlines. SumOfUs is calling on Shark Week partner Southwest Airlines to protect the habitats of sharks and other marine life by ditching single-use plastic. Thus far, nearly 25,000 SumOfUs members have signed the petition, and hundreds crashed the tags #SharkWeek and #SharksTakeFlight on Twitter:
Allison Guy, Ocean Plastics Campaigner at SumOfUs, said:
“Every year, airlines like Southwest generate over 5 million tons of cabin trash. While plastic hypocrite Southwest fills its terminals with Shark Week “experiences” and paints its planes with sharks, the airline is generating thousands of tons of trash, almost none of which is actually recycled. Southwest is an industry leader. If it tackled throwaway plastics head-on, it could make reusable and compostable alternatives the norm in airplanes and airports across the United States, rather than the sad exception.”
Southwest is the biggest airline in the United States with an annual income of $2.5 billion. So far, it is the only major U.S. airline that has taken no action to reduce throwaway plastics like straws and stir sticks, which are some of the most common plastic pollutants in waterways and beaches.
These throwaway plastics are usually too small for recycling facilities’ sorting machines, so they regularly end up in landfills or in the ocean, where they impact wildlife. And while Southwest does send a portion of its waste to be recycled, very little of the airline’s plastic trash will actually see a second life — only 9 percent of all plastic is recycled, with the rest landfilled, burned, or washed into the sea.
So far, Southwest competitors American, Delta and United have already stopped using certain single-use plastics. Outside of the United States, RyanAir and Air New Zealand have committed to phasing out all throwaway plastics on their flights, and other airlines have flown “zero waste” flights. SumOfUs is calling on Southwest to take its sustainability commitment seriously by pioneering the first plastic-free flight in the U.S.