I have a few bunches of bananas in my fruit bowl, and each individual banana has a produce sticker on it. The bunch that has yet to be torn into also has plastic wrapped around the stems and a plastic band wrapped around the entire bunch, which I've been told is there to make sure grocery store cashiers realize they're ringing up organic bananas and not conventional ones.
That's a lot of plastic, and it's virtually unavoidable if I want to buy bananas at a local grocery store. Many produce items come with a sticker on each individual piece. However, an end to that sticky, plastic waste may be near if a new a trial experiment in Sweden to replace produce stickers with laser marks is successful.
The Dutch produce supplier Nature & More and Swedish supermarket ICA are replacing the stickers on organic sweet potatoes and avocados with a mark made by a laser, according to The Guardian.
The technique is called "natural branding." It doesn't affect the quality or the longevity of the produce, and it's invisible under the skin of the fruit or vegetable. It uses "a strong light to remove pigment from the skin of produce," and it has the potential to make a large, positive impact on the environment each time it makes one tiny plastic sticker unnecessary.
How much impact can it make? ICA's business manager Peter Hagg told The Guardian that in one year, natural branding would save 135 miles of plastic that was 30 centimeters wide on the avocados alone. Those little stickers really add up, don't they?
Hagg told Fresh Plaza there were other benefits, too. In addition to reducing plastic waste, there is no glue, no ink, and no stickers to fall off — which sometimes can lead to food waste.
The biggest obstacle in this becoming the norm will be the initial price of a laser machine, but it's an investment that should pay for itself over time. (Think of the stickers that won't need to be purchased.)
Now, if someone could come up with a sustainable replacement for that plastic band around organic bananas, that would be great.