Aotearoa’s leading producer of fruit labels, Jenkins Freshpac Systems, has just been awarded a gold medal in development and creativity for their industrial compostable label. Now the firm has its eyes firmly set on testing and refining a home compostable fruit label.
Jamie Lunam, General Manager of Jenkins Freshpac Systems, says home compostable is the gold standard and is what they’ve been working on for some time.
“Home compostable is a term that means the label on your produce can simply be added to your garden compost to break down without a trace, rather than requiring a more intensive, industrial-scale composting system which is unavailable in many areas of the country,” says Lunam.
The award coincides with the announcement yesterday by Environment Minister David Parker, that single-use, non-compostable plastic labels will be phased out by mid 2023, a move that Lunam can see the benefits of.
“We’re hugely supportive of the action to reduce plastic. Our team and the growers and marketers we work with are passionate about providing sustainable, innovative packaging that minimises waste. Together, we’ve already worked on projects that have seen around 40,000 kilograms of plastic diverted from landfills,” he says.
Although they support the drive to compostable solutions, Jenkins Freshpac Systems, along with their international partner, Sinclair International, a major global producer of fruit labels, asked that the government consider removing fruit labels from the list of single use plastics to phase out.
“We’ve been working on sustainable packaging and labelling for over a decade without a mandate from government, we’re at a stage where no additional resource, funding or duress will speed up the process. The work is well underway, we just need a little more time than we’ve been given by the Minister to complete our development process.
“While we’re in the final stages of testing for a label that meets this standard, it’s not effective on all fruit. We’re going to need every bit of time we can get and are concerned the Minister’s goal of being ready by 2023 is too tight for us to have a solution for all produce,” says Lunam.
Lunam believes the inclusion of fruit labels in the list of unnecessary plastics belies the value of the product.
“Fruit labels play an important role in both the traceability of the produce and the protection of our local $6 billion horticulture industry. The information contained on that microthin sticker enables consumers all over the world to identify their highly sought-after New Zealand grown produce.
“If that critical information isn’t on the tiny fruit label, it needs to be on larger, less sustainable packaging, so getting the labels right is really important to reducing waste. Fruit labels actually help to de-package produce,” says Lunam.
The government has announced its intention to phase out a number of problem plastics and single use plastics by 2025. With figures from the Ministry indicating that Kiwis throw away an estimated 159 grams of plastic waste each every day, this makes us amongst the highest generators of waste in the world.
In addition to fruit labels, the legislation will target products such as plastic straws, cotton buds and plastic cutlery as well as hard to recycle items such as PVC or polystyrene packaging.