Are Produce Stickers Compostable? – Fruit and Produce Sticker Biodegradation

are produce stickers compostable

For decades, produce stickers have been used by supermarkets to make check-out and inventory management easier, faster and more accurate. Despite their small size, these stickers are a serious problem for composters everywhere.

This article will show you all the reasons why produce stickers don’t make the list of what can be composted at home or industrially.

What Are PLU Stickers?

PLU or Price Look Up codes are the 4- or 5-digit numbers that appear on the small stickers applied to fresh produce. These codes are assigned by the International Federation for Produce Standards (IFPS) and are consistent throughout the world. That means that the code for an organic Honeycrisp apple is the same in any grocery store, in any country.

Purpose of Produce Stickers and Codes

The PLU sticker codes ensure that the accurate price is paid by consumers by removing the need for cashiers to identify individual pieces of produce.

There are 3 types of numbers on PLU stickers:

  • 4-digit numbers beginning with a 4- this means the produce was grown conventionally
  • 5-digit numbers beginning with an 8- this means that the produce has been genetically modified (GMO)
  • 5-digit numbers beginning with a 9- this means the produce has been grown organically

To access the current globally used codes for fresh produce, refer to the Official PLU Codes Database on the IFPS website.

are produce stickers biodegradable

Are Produce Stickers Compostable?

Produce stickers are NOT suitable for industrial or home composting and are proving to be a major problem for composting facilities. The small stickers can be made of various products, but vinyl and plastic are the most common.

Since these materials do not break down, sorting the non-compostable stickers out of a large batch is nearly impossible. Because they are so thin and slick, the stickers often pass through screens designed to filter them out. Some composting companies claim they are the most challenging contaminant in their entire chain.

Innovations are being made, though they are not currently the norm. Select companies offer food-safe, compostable fruit stickers. Their labels meet the FDA standard for compostable and biodegradable packaging. Some countries are even experimenting with “natural branding“. This innovative process imprints a fruit or vegetable peel with its name, country of origin, and PLU code number using laser-etching technology.

Are Produce Stickers Biodegradable?

Produce stickers are NOT biodegradable. Products that are plant-based, animal-based or natural mineral-based are typically biodegradable. Since produce stickers are made of a thin layer of plastic and paper, they are not able to decompose naturally.

While some plastics are designed to be biodegradable, the materials used to make produce stickers are not. When sent to a waste facility, the stickers will sit and take up space for years and years.

For health reasons, the FDA requires produce stickers to not be harmful for human consumption, but they are not required to be biodegradable.

What to Do with Produce Stickers

The easiest way to ensure every single one of those fruit stickers stays out of compost is by peeling them off your produce as soon as you bring them home from the grocery store or market. This way, you won’t have to deal with them throughout the week.

Be sure to put them in the landfill-bound garbage, because in addition to not be compostable or biodegradable, fruit stickers are also not recyclable. 

Help Feed the Earth by Composting with Moonshot

We’ve answered the question, “are produce stickers compostable?” and provided you with important information to help you make the most of your composting experience. Make a difference and pass on these valuable tips to friends, family, and fellow composters.

At Moonshot, we strive to help you divert your organic waste from landfills, whether that is through backyard composting, composting at a community or urban garden, or composting at a larger facility. Join us in our mission to feed the Earth!

Contact us online today to see if our Houston compost service is available in your zip code! Whether you need home or commercial (office, restaurant, school, hospital etc) composting services, we can work with you to improve the environment!