A Hawke's Bay apple grower has become the first Southern Hemisphere apple exporter to start using compostable PLU stickers on its apples.

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.

New Zealand's largest organic apple grower, Bostock New Zealand is taking a lead and moving to an environmentally friendly alternative, trialling compostable PLU stickers for its apples this year.

Bostock New Zealand organic supply manager Heidi Stiefel said that the trial had been successful and the company will look forward to rolling out more compostable stickers next season.

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"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 per cent 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," Stiefel said.

Heidi Stiefel and Tom Bostock proudly display apples with compostable stickers. Photo / Supplied
Heidi Stiefel and Tom Bostock proudly display apples with compostable stickers. Photo / Supplied

She said 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 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 industrial compost.

Bostock New Zealand has also been trialling other sustainable and compostable packaging options across its products.

"We are continually looking for more sustainable packaging options and are very excited to be the first apple grower in the Southern Hemisphere to trial compostable PLU stickers this season."

"For New Zealand consumers though, they will struggle to visually see the difference between the compostable sticker and a plastic sticker because they look the same.

"However, next year we expect the home compostable sticker which is being developed to look quite different," Stiefel said.

"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."