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Sticker Shock

fruit at grocery stores with stickers - plastic pollution

While those tiny plastic stickers on produce are hardly the cause of pollution, they certainly are another part of the problem. Those stickers are found on bananas, tomatoes, avocadoes – you name it. They identify the product with a code which corresponds with a price at the cashier.

Many people do not remove the plastic sticker before throwing the peel or spoiled fruit/vegetable into the compost. And this is bad.

The CBC did a story about these little plastic stickers, called PLU for price look up, last week. Reporter Emily Chung interviewed Jane Proctor, vice-president of policy and issue management at the Canadian Produce Marketing Association. for this article. Proctor said the stickers are voluntary, but most chain supermarkets require them for convenience.

However, Susan Antler told Chung that these stickers are interfering with our composting systems. Antler, who is the executive director of the Compost Council of Canada, said they’re too small to be screened out in the waste-sorting process so end up being sprinkled as foreign matter through the finished product which is compost destined to be used to enrich soil in gardens, farms, and parks.

She was at a compost facility in British Columbia three years ago when she observed a truckload of rotting avocados that was turned away because of their PLU stickers. She even offered to remove the stickers herself but the composting plant manager declined. The truck then went to the landfill and Antler told Chung that she’s sure this happens all the time.

“The scale of waste is massive.”

While the stickers are not toxic, presumably they add to the problem of microplastics, Antler added.

Meanwhile, in Sweden, the chain of ICA stores has its avocados and sweet potatoes marked with a laser. The low-energy laser removes pigment from the skin of fruits and vegetables and etches in product code information. The program to eliminate the plastic stickers started in 2016 when Dutch-based organic produce supplier Eosta began selling the lasered vegetables.

According to Laser Foods, the process emits less than 0.2 percent of the CO2 emitted during making a sticker of the same size.  Organic produce in Europe is often packaged in plastic to differentiate it from conventionally grown fruits and vegetables.

But here in North America, we may not see it anytime soon. According to this article, U.S. growers are already worried about costs, possible FDA regulations, and consumer reactions.

But Michael Wilde, sustainability and communications manager for Eosta, said that his company is overwhelmed with the success.

“Green consumers are delighted that, finally, we can take organic products out of plastic.”

Let’s hope that we can move towards this better method of labeling.

It may be a small change but Sealuxe is a firm believer in the idea that any little positive thing we do will add up.