New Zealand’s largest organic apple grower, Bostock New Zealand is taking the lead and switching to compostable PLU stickers on its apples – a Southern Hemisphere first.

The PLU “price-look-up” stickers are necessary for the fruit to be easily identified by checkout staff, but they add a lot of plastic waste, with about 1 billion PLU stickers being used on New Zealand apples each year.

Bostock New Zealand organic supply manager, Heidi Stiefel said the trial has so far been successful and the company will look forward to rolling 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. The sticker laminate is 100 percent industrial compostable and so is the backing the stickers come on. There are thousands of metres of backing, so it is good that it is now compostable material instead of being plastic.

“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.

She added that it would be the company’s preference to not use PLU stickers, but a lot of customers and retailers require the stickers for identification, especially the 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 company has also been trialling other sustainable packaging options across its products. “Next year, we expect the home compostable sticker which is being developed to look quite different,” said Stiefel. “We believe the Ecolabel material we are using confirms our commitment to sustainable solutions. We want to invest in better environmental practises and creating a compostable PLU Sticker on our apples is a good start.”

Heidi Stiefel and Tom Bostock