United recently rolled out new Carhartt Company Gear for its 28,000 Technical Operations, Ramp Service and Catering Operations employees and originally planned to turn the surplus of older garments into carpet padding and insulation fiber. The company changed course last month to align with the latest guidance from the Center for Disease Control’s (CDC) to wear face masks in public when social distancing is not possible.
“This was an opportunity to do something extra for our employees to keep them safe while also staying true to our commitment to be one of the most sustainable airlines in the world,” said Janet Lamkin, United Airlines SVP and President, California. “Recycling these unused uniforms into masks is a natural extension of our broader effort to overhaul our cleaning, social distancing and mitigation measures to ensure we’re doing everything possible to keep our employees and our customers safe.”
United recently launched United CleanPlus, which brings together one of the most trusted brands in surface disinfection – Clorox – and the country’s top medical experts – Cleveland Clinic – to inform and guide United’s new cleaning, safety and social distancing protocols that includes touchless kiosks in select locations for baggage check-in, sneeze guards, mandatory face coverings for crew and customers, and empowering customers by contacting them 24 hours in advance and giving them the opportunity to choose a different flight – for free — when it looks like more than 70% of the seats will be filled.
Through partnering with Portland, Oregon-based Looptworks, United was able to supply employees with more sustainable, eco-friendly masks that are washable and reusable, recycled from uniforms, made in limited editions, and in the process save materials from landfills.
In April, United became the first major U.S.-based airline to require flight attendants to wear a face mask while on duty, and beginning in May, expanded that mandate to include all employees and customers on board. This includes front-line workers like pilots, customer service agents and ramp workers when on board an aircraft, along with any other United employees traveling using their flight benefits.