At the Bio!Pac biobased packaging conference this week in Amsterdam, Arjan Klapwijk of Bio4Life (Bleiswijk, Netherlands), "a small company dedicated to sustainable packaging challenges involving adhesives," as he described it, held a presentation on an issue his company has successfully addressed: Adhesive fruit labels. While it is not a topic that is at the forefront of many people's awareness, these labels are a headache for industrial composters.
Most labels commonly found on fruit—both on individual pieces as well as, in the case of bananas or grapes, on fruit bunches—are made of PE and a conventional adhesive, neither of which are biodegradable or compostable. Nonetheless, these innocuous little labels often end up with the peelings in the compost collection carts and, ultimately, in industrial composting facilities. Here, say composters, they turn into a sticky clump that is very difficult to get rid of.
Even home composters, faced with composting piles speckled with undigested fruit and vegetable labels, have had to resort to manually removing these from the compost. As one irate composter asked: "Are we supposed to be eating the labels, too?"