Fruit Labels, Jar Labels, Six-Packs, Environment, and Health

You know those annoying little stickers that are on most fruits you can buy individually in supermarkets?  The ones that are so thin and so well-glued that they’re often impossible to remove without gouging a hole in your fruit?  Yeah, I always knew they were evil.  In addition to being annoying on edible-skinned fruits, if a sticker is left on the peel you remove from a fruit and put into the compost, it never biodegrades (that’s how I first realized they’re made of plastic, not paper) and becomes an annoying bit of garbage to pick out of the nice rich soil in the compost bin a few months later.

What’s more, I just learned today that fruit stickers create a significant problem when they get into the water treatment system–clogging equipment or, since they’re so small and hover in the water rather than sink or float, washing past filters and into bodies of water.  Yuck!

This means, of course, that you should not let fruit stickers wash down the drain.  It also means that, when possible (when they’re still sticky, not bonded to plum skin), you should stick them to larger objects in your garbage or to the inside of the garbage bag, to reduce the odds of the little devils breaking free of the garbage-handling system and getting into the environment that way.

Alternatively, you can use them in your home decor.  My son is six and has strong ideas about home decor.  A while back, he decorated a sheet of paper with some fruit stickers and taped it to the lid of our kitchen trash can (the one that used to be the diaper pail).  Now I have a handy way to keep fruit stickers from choking fish, without even the hassle of stepping on the pedal to open the trash can!  And it is decorating our kitchen–not that it looks especially classy, but we can indulge the kid for a while.

Beth Terry’s new article about the fruit stickers includes a link (in one of her follow-up comments) to an older article of hers that I hadn’t read before, about how labels on food packaging can clog your dishwasher and they’re often affixed with toxic adhesives!  Aargh!

We reuse lots of glass food jars for storing leftovers and bulk-food purchases, so when we got a dishwasher I started to put newly-emptied jars in there, hoping to find that the machine would spiffily remove both the label and the peanut butter, saving me lots of soaking and scrubbing.  I pictured the label coming loose but staying near the jar so that, when unloading the dishwasher, we could simply pick up the soggy label and toss it into the trash, then maybe need to wipe off the last traces of glue.  But the labels came off incompletely, in small shreddy bits, and Daniel pointed out that these probably would clog the dishwasher and also were sticking all over the other dishes–much like what a fake handkerchief does to a load of laundry.

But I never dreamed those labels were toxic!!  I calmly went back to cleaning newly-emptied jars the way I’ve been doing it for years: immerse open jar in hot soapy water, screw on lid, soak jar alongside other dishes while washing them, periodically peel off as much label as will come off and shake jar to loosen peanut butter dregs, and finally wipe off remaining glue with dishcloth, rinse dishcloth, and wash inside of jar.  I just always assumed that the glue must be basically safe, since it was allowed on food packages.

Now, before I panic completely about how much of that glue has been spread over all the other dishes from which my sweet baby boy has been eating all his life, let me note that the research study cited in Beth’s article looked at glues used on the labels of plastic and paper food packaging, not glass.  So maybe the glues used on glass-labels do not contain 2,4,7,9-Tetramethyldec-5-yne-4,7-diol.  Maybe.  But I am going to start soaking off jar labels in a separate batch of soapy water, not in with my dishes.

While I’m ranting about food packaging’s environmental effects, let me just remind everyone to cut up six-pack rings before putting them in the trash–or better yet, avoid six-pack rings by buying beverages in larger containers or at least buying individual cans by the case (recyclable cardboard box) instead of in six-packs.

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3 thoughts on “Fruit Labels, Jar Labels, Six-Packs, Environment, and Health

  1. Pingback: Glass Jars Galore! « The Earthling's Handbook

  2. Pingback: Buying Bulk Food in Reused Containers | The Earthling's Handbook

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