Kids take pesky fruit sticker campaign to the Prime Minister

This article is part of a special Cosmos series where our newsroom journalists follow up science from the archive, to find out: What happened next?

Students from Winters Flat Primary School in Castlemaine, Victoria are taking their campaign to ban pesky fruit stickers right to the top, calling on Prime Minister Anthony Albanese to follow New Zealand in banning the plastic labels.

The school’s Care for Environment leaders Aurora and Georgie, wrote to the PM in November, seeking his help in banning plastic fruit stickers.

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Care for Environment leaders Indi and Aurora from Winters Flat Primary School / Credit: Supplied

“A few years ago, we kept finding fruit stickers in our compost and ever since we’ve been working quite hard to get them out of our compost and gardens, and spread the word about these pesky pieces of plastic. They take hundreds of years to break down and are bad for the environment,” the letter says.

They included pictures in the letter to show “just how big a problem this is – they’re everywhere!”

It was part of a student-led campaign to raise awareness about the problems caused by fruit stickers.

So, what happened next?

Winters Flat teacher and garden specialist Terry Willis says the students were amazed to receive a prompt reply from the PM. “Their reaction was priceless – showed their friends, who were in disbelief”

Albanese did not specifically mention the stickers, writing: “Protecting nature is a task for all of us; and it’s the responsibility of all adults, especially those in senior positions like myself, to ensure we pass on a safe and healthy environment to future generations.” 

The students plan to keep the pressure on, and follow up to see what actions politicians take. We’ll find out what happened next, in the new school year.

New Zealand bans, South Australia plans

Cosmos previously reported on the students pesky fruit sticker campaign, in light of New Zealand’s ban on plastic produce labels coming into force on 1 July 2023.

Under the new NZ regulations non-compostable glue (sticking the label to the produce) will also be banned in 2025, with potential fines of up to $100,000 for non-compliance.

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Fruit stickers from school compost / Credit: Supplied

In France, a similar ban on non-compostable labels came into effect on 1 January 2022. 

In Australia, federal, state and territory environment ministers are working together to reform packaging regulation by 2025

But apart from South Australia – set to ban fruit stickers from September 2025 (along with plastic soy sauce fish) – the majority of states and territories are avoiding the sticky issue of produce labels.

The stickers’ small size and cute, colourful designs belies their troublesome nature in both home and commercial composting facilities.

Fruit tattoos could do away with plastic

And as the students wrote in their letter, “there are environmentally friendly alternatives to plastic. We could make them edible, recyclable, or biodegradable.”

Cosmos even reported on an alternative laser printing technology being developed by Australian packaging supplier Result Group, printing directly onto fruit and vegetable skin and avoiding plastic waste.

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EcoMark labels on avocados / Credit: Result Group

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