NZ apple grower launches compostable ID stickers

A Hawke's Bay apple grower has made history, becoming the first in the Southern Hemisphere to use compostable apple stickers.

The PLU "price-look-up" stickers are necessary for fruit to be easily identified by checkout staff.

However, they contribute to plastic waste, with about 1 billion PLU stickers being used on New Zealand apples each year.

New Zealand's largest organic apple grower, Bostock New Zealand, carried out a trial of an environmentally friendly alternative, trialling compostable PLU stickers for its apples this year.

Heidi Stiefel and Tom Bostock show off the new compostable stickers
Heidi Stiefel and Tom Bostock show off the new compostable stickers Photo credit: Supplied

Bostock New Zealand Organic Supply Manager, Heidi Stiefel said the trial was successful and the company would now roll out more compostable stickers next season.

"We are using the compostable stickers for a European customer and on the large Braeburn apples targeted for the USA and the local New Zealand market, " she said. 

The sticker laminate is 100 percent industrial compostable, along with the backing the stickers come on. 

"The sticker trial has been very successful, and we have had no technical issues. We will definitely work with the supplier to roll out more compostable stickers across our apples in 2020," said Stiefel.

Heidi Stiefel said the company plans to roll out more compostable stickers in 2020.
Heidi Stiefel said the company plans to roll out more compostable stickers in 2020. Photo credit: Supplied

She said the company would prefer not to use PLU stickers, however, many customers and retailers require the stickers for identification, especially US, Asian and New Zealand customers.

"Without PLU stickers, consumers would not be able to easily identify organic apples from conventional apples, so they are necessary."

The compostable sticker meets FDA and EU regulations for direct food contact and breaks down when put in an industrial compost.

The company said customers won't notice the difference in stickers at the moment, however, plans are underway to create a new look for the more environmentally friendly option.

"Next year we expect the home compostable sticker which is being developed to look quite different."

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