This time, the latest Design Thinking result from Covid-19 has come from United Airlines. The carrier delivered 7,500 face coverings over the past week to front line employees at San Francisco International Airport and maintenance base, but instead of shipping them from abroad, United were pleased to announce that the masks were made from 12,284 pounds of old United uniforms. United worked with upcycling partner, Looptworks to produce the supplementary supply of face coverings that the airline already provides all employees and customers.
United recently rolled out new Carhartt Company Gear for their Technical, Ramp and Catering Operations employees as part of a global uniform launch. The carrier originally planned to turn the surplus of older garments into carpet padding and insulation fibre. However the company quickly changed tack last month to respond to the Center for Disease Control’s (CDC) new guidance 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.”
Founded in 2009, Looptworks and United were able to supply these 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. It’s a clever and socially and environmentally-responsible solution to the current situation.