The packaging industry can become leaders in the fight against food waste. Nirav Desai explains.

Sticking to innovation

Avocados

What stops a full crate of rotten avocados from being composted? A tiny, plastic sticker.

While it may seem inconsequential considering its size, fruit stickers are commonly made with polyethelene and a conventional adhesive making them non-compostable. As a result, if the stickers are not removed, the easiest option for a distributor who receives a bad crate of fruit is to throw it right into the garbage which then contributes to landfill volume and methane gas.

Luckily, there is a better, more sustainable solution to this problem: make the fruit stickers compostable. So, what goes into making a compostable sticker?

First, a quality film is ideal. Using a multi-layer PLA film is key, as monolayer film isn’t suitable for meeting opacity requirements. The film should have blemish-free, white opacities with flat sheeting (no folds or wrinkles across the web). Consistent gauge is also necessary for the smooth coating and printing of universal product codes (UPCs). Any pigments or additives in the film will also need to be compostable.

The second element is a biodegradable adhesive that is made specifically for direct contact with foods.  Avery Dennison, for example, has an adhesive that works well here.

Finally, the label needs to be certified through one or all of the right channels to ensure that they are suitable for composting. This is a one-time step and could take considerable effort, unless the film and adhesives are sourced from pre-certified sources.

Despite compostable stickers not being widely adopted by the produce and packaging industry, this is an ideal opportunity for the labelling and flexible packaging industry to become innovative leaders in the fight against food waste. Now is the time to start informing customers about compostable stickers as a new solution to a very large problem. 

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