Sam Judd

Comment on the environment from nzherald.co.nz columnist Sam Judd

Sam Judd: Those pesky labels

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We have a large fruit bowl on our kitchen table which is usually overflowing with delicious seasonal fruit. One thing that really irks me is those pesky little stickers perfectly placed on every piece.

Whether you purchase organic or not, they still seem to pop up.

I understand the necessity in that they contain the PLU code so the fruit is easily identified by checkout staff. They are also great for branding something that would otherwise seem unbrandable.

Most of the stickers are recyclable, but it's not an item many people would think to put in their weekly recycling. And those who have a compost heap will know the sight of those pesky stickers all too well when they are accidentally turfed out with the peel.

I mean, why would you use a material that lasts for thousands of years on something that decomposes within a couple of months?

I have been told that the stickers 'need' to be plastic because paper degrades, especially when exposed to the natural acids in the produce and the high levels of moisture associated with refrigerated storage and shipping (something that is unavoidable with export).

Last week I applauded the decision made by Chupa Chups, who opted to find an alternative to plastic lollipop sticks. This time the kudos goes to Zespri, who are investigating a different material for their labels. They have developed the first (and only) compostable fruit labels.

One has to commend Zespri for this initiative, it demonstrates their leadership in a highly competitive marketplace, especially at a time when the kiwifruit industry is no doubt under pressure from PSA. It also demonstrates the power of consumers in encouraging companies to find better solutions.

The fact is, consumers out there are changing their behaviour and starting to favour producers that are responsible with their packaging and ethics around procurement. Many are now willing to pay a sizeable margin for peace of mind knowing that the people who grow their bananas in Ecuador receive a fair wage for their toils, or that their eggs come from happy hens.

Personally I earn very little, having chosen to work for a charity rather than go for the big bucks - but when it comes to food, I vastly prefer to go for spray-free and ethical options where possible, even if it does impact my wallet a little more.

If I had to purchase kiwifruit from the store, I know which ones I'll be reaching for.

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