Sustainable products and materials management

We know you want to travel more sustainably, and that includes the proper management of our resources. For this reason, we’re working hard to offer more eco-friendly products and services for your entire journey – from takeoff to landing

Our initiatives



Sustainable aviation fuels

We’re investing in environmentally responsible, low-carbon sustainable aviation fuels – our way of continuing to operate a more sustainable airline. This investment is not only good for the environment, but also creates clean energy jobs in the communities we serve.

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Recycling and materials management

We continue to evaluate new ways to responsibly manage and reduce the waste we generate onboard our aircraft, in our airports and throughout our operations. In 2017, we recycled over 18 million pounds of cardboard, aluminum, plastic, paper and other materials.



Onboard recycling

Our flight attendants collect and recycle aluminum, plastic and paper on most United and United Express® flights within the U.S. Once collected in our Eco-Skies bags, the waste is first transported to our catering kitchens, followed by a material recovery facility.

Regulations limit the types of materials we’re able to recycle on international flights. However, in many locations, we recycle paper and aluminum cans. At our facility in Newark, some waste is incinerated and converted to energy.

How can you help?

Avoid placing wrappers, napkins and other waste into bottles, cups and cans so we can increase our recycling effectiveness and decrease contamination of non-recyclable materials.



Recycling and waste management in our airports

In our facilities, we work with the airports to encourage the recycling of paper, cardboard, aluminum cans and bottles.

In our ground operations and maintenance, we recycle wood pallets, cardboard, plastic film, batteries and tires, as well as materials from the construction of new terminals and airport facilities.

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Materials management

Every ounce of weight on an airplane contributes to fuel efficiency and emissions reduction. In 2017, we evaluated the materials we use and made some changes to keep 30,000 metric tons of CO2 out of the air. That’s equivalent to taking 6,400 cars off the road. Here are some of the steps we took to accomplish that:

  • Printed our Hemispheres inflight magazine on new paper that makes each magazine one ounce
  • Removed our onboard duty-free products
  • Evaluated and adjusted our food and drinks to reach the optimal level of service while reducing the potential for waste and added aircraft weight.

Donating used materials for a second life

In 2016, United became the first airline to partner with Clean the World, an innovative organization that recycles partially used soap, shampoo and other hygiene products. Our employees collect unused amenity kits from United flights and donate them to be refurbished into new hygiene kits for those in need.

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We work with organizations like Good360 and Green Standards to find new homes for obsolete materials from our operations, such as coffee mugs, dinnerware and pillow cases, as well as office furniture from renovated facilities.

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Eco-Skies upcycled travel bags

Along with our commitment to reuse and recycle all the material we can, we’re dedicated to connecting with the communities we serve. Recently, we partnered with Columbia College Chicago and Re:new to turn our old banner advertisements into durable, fun and fashionable travel bags.

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Serving illy coffee

We’re proud to brew illy® coffee, the first company to earn Responsible Supply Chain Process certification. illy's internationally-certified supply chain includes farmers who earn 30 percent above market prices in exchange for following eco-friendly and sustainable-quality practices.

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Cowshed products in our amenity kits

We partner with Cowshed Spa, the premium spa and lifestyle brand of London-based Soho House & Co, to offer award-winning products made from wild crafted, organic and fairly traded ingredients.

Cowshed’s line is made from sustainable resources and natural botanicals, and contains no parabens, petrochemicals, sulphates, animal ingredients or artificial fragrances and colors.

You can find these products onboard our aircraft in our premium cabin amenity kits, and in more than a dozen United Club℠ locations around the world.

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Improved facilities

We’re investing in making our facilities more energy efficient, which includes installing energy efficient lighting and mechanical systems at our United Club℠ locations and airport terminals. Here are some of our certified facilities:

Leadership in Energy and Environmental (LEED) certified facilities:

  • Network Operations Center in Chicago – LEED Silver
  • Houston Bush Intercontinental Airport – Terminal B South – LEED Silver
  • San Francisco International Airport – Terminal 3 East – LEED Gold
  • San Francisco International Airport – United Polaris Lounge and one United ClubSM location – LEED Gold

United Club locations with sustainable operations certifications:

  • Denver International Airport (East and West locations) – Certifiably Green Denver (2018)
  • Los Angeles International Airport – City of Los Angeles Green Business Certification (2017)
  • San Diego International Airport – San Diego Green Concessions Program (2017)

United Eco-Skies CarbonChoice carbon offset program

Through the Eco-Skies® CarbonChoice program, United offers customers and businesses the opportunity to purchase carbon offsets to reduce the carbon footprint associated with their air travel and cargo shipments.

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MileagePlus Shopping

MileagePlus® Shopping has retail partners that specialize in products for green living. Earn MileagePlus miles from buying eco-friendly products.

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