Over 7,500 Face Masks Were Made From Upcycled United Uniforms

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If that face mask you are wearing today has overtones of jet fuel, it may because it’s an upcycled United Airlines staff uniform. The airline has donated 12,284 pounds of uniforms to make 7,500 face coverings to be worn by staff and passengers.

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United Airlines has made 7,500 masks from surplus employee uniforms. Photo: United Airlines News Hub

In truth, the mask shouldn’t smell of anything. The upcycled uniforms were new and unworn. If you can smell jet fuel, it might be because you’re lucky enough to be back flying again – wearing a mask, of course.

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Surplus uniforms turned into masks

United Airlines teamed up with upcycling business, Looptworks, to manufacture masks to supplement the masks the airline already provided employees and passengers.

Janet Lamkin, United Airlines’ California Senior Vice President, said;

“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.”

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United has asked its crew to wear face masks inflight since April. In May, that extended to passengers and all employees while on duty. By upcycling the surplus uniforms, United was able to supply employees with more sustainable, eco-friendly masks that are washable and reusable. In turn, this helps reduce landfill.

“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,” said Ms Lamkin.

Oregon-based Looptworks partners with big businesses like United Airlines to help minimize waste and create circular design through a closed-loop system. They often work with companies and industries not known for their environmental credentials, making them a perfect fit for airlines.

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A United Airlines employee wearing one of the upcycled masks. Photo: United Airlines News Hub

United Airlines and its employees pitch in to help out

In addition to upcycling the uniforms, United Airlines has stepped up to help out this year in many ways. The airline says 2,300 United employees have volunteered their time around the world, with over 30,800 hours served. Further, mostly unsung and unheralded, United Airlines and their employees have;

  • Provided over 2,900 complimentary flights to medical professionals heading into COVID-19 hotspots around New York, New Jersey, and California;
  • Donated over 7.6 million Mileage Plus miles to organizations helping out on the COVID-19 frontlines;
  • Donated over 500,000 pounds of food from flight kitchens and club lounges to local food banks and charities;
  • Helped United employees produce over 800 gallons of hand sanitizer for use around the United Airlines network;
  • Donated 15,000 pillows, 2,800 amenity kits, and 5,000 self-care products to charities and homeless shelters;
  • United employees helped process more than 2.2 million pounds of food and household goods at the Houston food bank;
  • The airline flew over 78.6 million pounds of medical equipment and personal protective equipment and 2 million pounds of supplies to support military troops; and
  • Operated 3,800 cargo-only flights to bring 204 million pounds of cargo to communities in need.
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Turning surplus uniforms into masks. Photo: United Airlines News Hub

A well-deserved shoutout for United Airlines

Big airlines like United frequently cop plenty of criticism. Some of it is deserved, but a lot of it is because big businesses like airlines are easy marks. So it’s good to be able to give a shoutout to United Airlines and especially their employees for stepping up and helping out. What’s more, they haven’t said much about it. Most of the good they’ve done has been unremarked, but it does deserve applause.

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