Submitted by: May Leng
Say goodbye to those tiny circular stickers you peeled off of Cuties, pears, bell peppers, yams, potatoes, and tomatoes. The Dutch fruit and vegetable supplier Nature & More and Swedish supermarket ICA have recently abandoned using stickers on their avocados and sweet potatoes. They instead use lasers to remove pigment from the skin of the produce, a technique known as “natural branding”. Its name was coined by the fact that etching labels with lasers creates less than 1 percent of the carbon emissions that are needed to produce a sticker of identical size. Additionally, the technique has no effect on the quality or shelf life of the produce.
Using laser technology in place of stickers will eventually save the Swedish supermarkets 135 miles of plastic 30 cm wide per year. Although the stickers seem extremely small, in the long run, an enormous amount of plastic, paper, and glue can be spared with natural branding. Due to the wide success of the lasered avocados and potatoes, the ICA is preparing to expand onto more delicate products with edible skin such as apples. Just last year another supermarket in the UK was reported to have applied natural bonding on oranges and saved several tons of packaging material.
A growing number of shoppers buy and support organic produce because organic farming is environmentally friendly, especially compared to the conventional style. Climate change and protecting the planet are important to organic shoppers, so many agree that the current packaging of organic produce is unnecessary and should be made more sustainable. Because nearly one-fifth of all Swedish supermarkets’ sales come from organic shoppers, they must appeal and respond to their customers’ feedback by introducing the use of lasers. Hopefully other markets will start to incorporate natural bonding in their packaging processes so that the world can become healthier.