Do Produce Stickers Break Down in Compost? The Answer May Surprise You
Have you ever wondered if the produce stickers that sneak their way into your compost bin are biodegradable? Here's what you need to know.
You finally did it—you invested in a compost bin. It's positioned on your kitchen counter, and you're tossing unusable food scraps into the soon-to-be mulchy mix left and right, creating nutrient-rich soil and subverting food waste from the landfill.
Upon further inspection, though, there seems to be a freckling of ingredients that just aren't degrading. In fact, they look as new as ever! It's those pesky produce stickers, and they're messing with your compost composition.
Do Produce Stickers Break Down in Compost?
Produce stickers—aka "price look-up" stickers, or PLUs, an important inventory tool at most grocery stores—are typically made from paper and a layer of plastic durable enough to withstand transport and in-store spritzings of water to ensure freshness. While stickers are FDA-regulated and even technically edible, they are neither biodegradable nor compostable.
Composting is a natural process that uses oxygen, nitrogen, and time to recycle organic matter into a material called humus, a fertilizer that can be used by farmers and home gardeners alike. And while many non-food items can be tossed into your bin or heap—think pizza boxes, paper napkins, coffee filters—most manmade products don't break down by natural means. This category includes those ubiquitous PLUs.
Here are three things you can do to reduce your produce sticker waste while the industry works to find an environmentally sound solution.
Countertop Compost Bin
Shop All Food & Kitchen
Add your food scraps to this aesthetically pleasing kitchen counter compost bin.
What Can You Do About Produce Stickers?
1. Remember to Remove
The obvious step: remember to remove and toss your produce stickers in the only place they can currently go, the trash. While this does nothing to reduce the waste, it will help to ensure that your compost stays healthy and viable for use in potted houseplants or your garden.
2. Shop Farmers' Markets
Produce stickers are important for inventory and product identification at grocery stores and markets, but the vendors at most farmers' markets have no need for them. Support your local growers and purchase sticker-free fruits and veggies.
3. Grow Your Own
In your final form, you are your own farmer and produce provider, and can easily identify your bounty without the use of a plastic sticker. Build an organic garden plot in your backyard, or go the small-space route with a hydroponic gardening system like Gardyn or Lettuce Grow.
How to Wash Fruit and Veggies to Get Rid of Bugs and Bacteria
Whether your produce comes from a chain grocer or a farmers' market, properly washing your fruits and vegetables is an important step.
Seasonal Produce Guide: Which Fruits and Veggies Are in Season Right Now?
Shopping for seasonal produce is great for the planet. Here's your guide to which fruits and veggies are in season right now.
What Does It Mean for a Product to Be Compostable?
Not all compostable products are created equal. Here's what compostable means and the difference between commercially and home compostable.