Field of Science

Another reason to dislike the sticky plastic labels on fruit

Those little oval sticky (PLU - price look up) labels applied to every piece of fruit larger than a grape in grocery stores are terrible things and TPP dislikes them very muchly.  First, they are almost impossible to remove short of damaging the fruit by removing the peel.  OK if it's an avocado or banana, but not so OK on other fruits. Or worse, you're cutting up fruit, don't notice the label and then you see it's one third gone and you have to sort through the cut up fruit to find the other 1/3. Leaving it on the fruit would get you chopped from one of those cooking programs for certain. As if you needed another reason to hate those labels, here it is. Those labels are forever! They do not decompose!
Back story: TPP decided that it was time to remove the composed material from one of our 3 composers (about 8 cubic feet each). It had been 2 or 3 years, so it was well composed, and filled with nasty little biting ants for a bonus, just the right stuff for top dressing the asparagus bed.  In the process of digging the material out several of those little plastic labels emerged, totally legible and intact, less the sticky.  So future archaeologist will find them and wonder about their significant.  Fruit tokens? Fruit totems? Reminders of what fruit it is? 
So sticky labels on fruit go into the Not Green category of useless (? not quite useless), infuriating things that should be outlawed, particularly where attached to composable items.  Grocery stores are you listening? Get some check out clerks that know the produce so they don't have to scan each piece. 


Chris Wolfe said...

My local store has self-checkout, plus scales with label printers in the produce section. PLUs are listed on the price sign and there's a touchscreen interface on the label printer to choose the item you are buying. Even people who don't read english handle these fine since there are pictures of everything (not to mention entering the PLU works most of the time). The top eight items are shown on the splashscreen, so if you want bananas or broccoli you just touch and go.

Nevertheless, every single piece of fruit that isn't bagged has a little sticky label. Even the organic stuff. Totally unnecessary. I've even seen vegetables with little rubber bands with the PLU printed on them, which is even more wasteful unless it is holding a bunch together.

The Phytophactor said...

How nice! Yes, in Italy, the produce is bagged, weighed, and a bag sealing label with PLU is presented. And you only handle produce with plastic gloves on (which seems a bit excessive and wasteful). But yet another example where the technology exists but the USA is slow to use it creatively.

Rosie Redfield said...

I hate them too, but I'm pretty sure this isn't something individual grocers can control. The whole PLU system is administered internationally (see Wikipedia article here:, and large-scale growers know that they won't be able to market their produce to wholesalers unless it has the expected stickers.