IFPA A-NZ requires nationwide method to fruit sticker ban

The International Fresh Produce Association A-NZ (IFPA A-NZ) supports a national approach to banning plastic non-compostable Price Look-Up code (PLU) produce stickers and wants to see compostable adhesive excluded from South Australia’s proposed 2025 ban until growers, packers and retailers have more time to phase in approved alternatives.

In its submission to South Australia’s proposed 2024 and 2025 amendment to the Single-Use and Other Plastic Products (Waste Avoidance) Act, the IFPA A-NZ outlines key challenges for the produce sector ahead of the 1 September, 2025 PLU ban, specifically implementation.

IFPA Managing Director A-NZ Ben Hoodless. Photography by orlandosydney.com.

“We wholeheartedly support efforts to reduce the use of plastic waste in the fresh produce sector. But any changes should not compromise food safety and should be introduced in a way that is cost-effective, nationally consistent and supported by practical and effective alternatives,” says IFPA Managing Director A-NZ Ben Hoodless.

“We are cognisant of the financial implications for growers and producers in the current environment. We’re concerned there’s not enough time for them to implement PLU changes. Retailers, too, will have a challenge in managing produce without approved stickers.

“We would prefer to see a nationally consistent approach rather than state-based approach as growers currently manage regulations for multiple regimes. This adds undue complexity to an already challenged supply chain, and with the ban coming in, may create an extra barrier for those supplying to South Australia.”

Mr Hoodless said PLU stickers, which are applied to fresh produce sold loose and by the kilo, comprised three components – the sticker itself, the ink and the adhesive. Stickers are typically made from plastic and adhere to round or uneven surfaces.

“PLU stickers have many benefits. They are water resistant and able to tolerate transport, storage, and marketing conditions, ensure produce is accurately identified and priced, speed up transactions at the checkout and play a role in managing food safety. Iin recent times, they have expanded to include bar codes with data supporting authentication, traceability and product differentiation.

“However, most stickers are not compostable because of the adhesive. They contaminate home and industrial composting and represent the persistence of single-use packaging in the environment,” he said.

He said technology offering PLU alternatives was emerging, with various Australian companies now manufacturing compostable stickers. Yet, compostable adhesive had limited commercial availability globally.

Emerging alternatives coming

There had also been considerable research into alternatives such as vegetable inks, laser tattoos and food-safe stamps but this too was a work in progress, he said.

Under the proposed changes, AS-certified compostable plastic produce stickers (which break down within three months), paper stickers and laser or similar technology will be allowed.

“For fresh produce stakeholders, alternatives need to be cost-effective and scaleable, with workable timeframes to allow growers to place orders, test and implement,” he said.

He said the IFPA A-NZ’s view was aligned with that of leading retailers and industry authority The Australian Fresh Produce Alliance (AFPA), which suggested 2028 was a more achievable deadline to phase in compostable stickers.

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