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Top UK Supermarket Laser Prints Labels On Avocados To Reduce Waste (telegraph.co.uk) 219

One of the largest British retailers in London, M&S, is opting in for laser-printed barcodes to reduce paper waste. "The labels, which are etched onto fruit's skins with lasers instead of stickers, will save 10 tons of paper and five tons of glue every year according to M&S," reports The Telegraph. The labels will be etched into the skins of avocados, but "could soon be introduced to other fruit and vegetables and adopted by other supermarkets which are looking for new waste reduction techniques." The labels themselves include the shop logo, best before date, country of origin and product code for entering at the till. What's more is that the avocado's skin is the only area impacted by the lasers -- none of the fruit gets damaged. Bruce66423 writes: Print the information usually on the packaging to reduce waste. Excellent idea -- although the Aldi (the radically cheap, all own brand chain) alternative is to leave avocados untouched and get the cashiers to enter the code.
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Top UK Supermarket Laser Prints Labels On Avocados To Reduce Waste

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    Employees and customers are next.

  • by dbIII ( 701233 ) on Wednesday June 21, 2017 @03:09AM (#54659099)
    Hopefully apples too - anyone else annoyed by little stickers on apples?
    • I used to work with a guy who stuck them to the side of his monitor. Over time there were so many I reckoned the thing was ready to tip over. And that was before those fancy-pants flatscreen jobbies too.

      • by ls671 ( 1122017 )

        seen it too!

      • Onions? I've never seen stickers on onions. By-the-piece onions (around here at least) come in three flavors - red, white, and yellow. Or by the bag, already labeled. I can see why you would need labels on apples as there are about a dozen varieties, even at small grocery stores. Most everything else is unique enough that you can tell what it is, although some cashiers seem to be clueless about "exotic" fruits like kiwis, dragonfruit, and mangos.

    • by symes ( 835608 ) on Wednesday June 21, 2017 @03:22AM (#54659123) Journal

      Very much so. Especially when there is a bit of glue residue left after the label has been removed. I do wonder, though, if this might effect the quality of the fruit. Avacados have thick skin, as do banannas, so they are probably ok. But apples, peaches and so on?

      • by ls671 ( 1122017 )

        Given your low uid, I understand where you're coming from. I vaguely remember something similar to what you mention.

        Lately, I have noticed the glues used are basically edible. This has become a requirement in some areas.

        Now, how about an edible bar-code sticker?

        Then, we could have some serious talks about it on /.:

        Edible bar-code sticker VS laser imprinted!

        hehehe...

      • I do wonder, though, if this might effect the quality of the fruit.

        The quality of the fruit already exists before the label is attached, so what you suggest is impossible.

        • by Cederic ( 9623 )

          Causing a deterioration in quality is far from impossible.

          • He is pointing out that the OP doesn't know the difference between effect and affect. And neither, apparently, do you.
      • Especially when there is a bit of glue residue left after the label has been removed.

        If you're afraid of the glue reside I suggest you never scratch the surface of an apple. You'll find supermarket apples are dipped in wax.

    • by evilbessie ( 873633 ) on Wednesday June 21, 2017 @03:41AM (#54659185)

      No the apples (like basically every other vegetable and fruit) come on a styrofoam tray wrapped in polyethylene. M&S are basically the worst for excessive packaging so this is an absolute joke. They basically do not have loose produce, everything is prewrapped in usually at least 2 layers of plastic, not useful stuff we can get recycled at the kerbside either.

      • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

        The loose fruit and veg is usually near the lunch stuff in the standard M&S layout. They provide little plastic bags for you to put the loose fruit in, but it's up to you if you use them or bring your own or whatever.

        MS packaging is better than most. They often use metal trays, for example, rather than plastic, which can be recycled and degrade faster. They cost 1p more but you can often use them to cook the food in too, saving on tin foil and baking tray liner.

        • Ah that must be newish as they never used to have much in the way of loose produce (then almost all have gone this way too) as I'm sure wastage is higher with loose vs prepackaged. Loose veg is rarer these days, most everything is prepackaged :(

          Foil vs CPET definitely isn't the way you put it however, I cannot recycle foil (including the 'single' use cooking trays) in kerbside recycling, I can do this for the CPET trays which are the alternative. No idea why you'd line anything with foil, the enamel trays I

    • by enjar ( 249223 )
      Yes. My kid ends up taking the sticker off the apple and then sticking them in odd places. It's not the most burning problem in the world, but I wouldn't miss them. Also there's nothing like the feeling of failure when I mix up a gin and tonic and then see a sticker on the section of lime I've already submerged.
  • Not too useful (Score:4, Insightful)

    by religionofpeas ( 4511805 ) on Wednesday June 21, 2017 @03:33AM (#54659161)

    It doesn't work on majority of fruits. Most of the information they print is redundant. Nobody needs the shop logo. The country of origin is already printed on the bin. The product code can be memorized/looked up by the cashier. That only leaves the best-by date, which, in the case of avocados, isn't very reliable.

    • Not useful to you, but none the less information that is relevant to many.

      Why should someone sell a product if they can't display their name or logo on it?
      How should a product code be memorised? It's hard enough to identify what kind of Apple an apple is within a bag. Quite often the cashier relies on the colour of the sticker they see so they know if they need to run it up as pink lady, red delicious, fuji, etc.

      Now as for best by date. .... Wait what? You have best by dates on fruit? Like WTF? Ripeness dep

      • Why should someone sell a product if they can't display their name or logo on it?

        When you see the product, you're already in the fucking store, with logos on every single flat surface.

        How should a product code be memorised?

        Cash registers around here have a flip book attached, with color pictures, name and code. After a while, the cashier will automatically remember the most common items.

        • Sounds like you live in the dark ages
          Cash registers at the super markets around here have colour touch screens
          Same with the self service checkouts. I tap "Look up item", "Fruit & Vegetables" and if it's not on that screen I press "A" for apple.

          • Cash registers at the super markets around here have colour touch screens

            I hope we can skip those, and go directly to cameras with image recognition to identify the fruit automatically.

        • When you see the product, you're already in the fucking store, with logos on every single flat surface.

          And? That's an excuse to sell unlabelled product that no one can identify out of the store?

          Cash registers around here have a flip book attached, with color pictures, name and code. After a while, the cashier will automatically remember the most common items.

          I actually worked as a cash register. Identifying different types of apples is frigging hard from a picture alone even if the apples weren't presented in not clear plastic bags. Combine that with the fact that most supermarket checkout staff are incredibly poorly paid, often students who have not interest in career and don't give a shit about working at the job let alone have any affection for their company anything y

          • That's an excuse to sell unlabelled product that no one can identify out of the store?

            You need a store logo to identify an avocado ?

            I actually worked as a cash register. Identifying different types of apples is frigging hard

            How does laser printing avocados help with that ?

      • How should a product code be memorised?

        I don't know how things are where you live, but here in Southern California, grocery checkers are expected to recognize all common produce and know the codes without looking them up. The more codes they know, the less time they waste looking them up and the more customers they can serve per hour.
        • common produce

          Oh I had to do the same. You know the easiest way to tell the difference between a fuji apple and a jazz apple? One has a blue label and the other a red / green one. Every so often we got some apples through without labels. In the interest of time store policy was spend no more than a few seconds trying to identify the type, if you can't the run it up as the cheapest to avoid any customer complaints if you get it wrong.

  • by Bert64 ( 520050 ) <bert.slashdot@firenzee@com> on Wednesday June 21, 2017 @03:37AM (#54659175) Homepage

    Some packaging is way over the top, and the vast majority of household waste at least for me is in the form of packaging...
    Virtually no packaging can be reused, not much biodegrades and only some can be recycled through an energy intensive process of melting it all down again.

  • Uh oh one more reason for millennials to go even more wild on avocado toast #no_home http://www.cnbc.com/2017/05/16... [cnbc.com]
  • by thegarbz ( 1787294 ) on Wednesday June 21, 2017 @04:17AM (#54659289)

    My local supermarket started individually shrink-wrapping fruit for your environmentally destructive pleasure. :-(

  • Here they don't even bother labeling produce. You just grab what you want and the cashier or you at a self checkout lane enters in what it is, how many and the register weighs it to make sure everything is good. Of course people can game the system by saying their super organic gmo free fruit is just regular cheap fruit but as far as I can see most places operate on the honor system in that regard and everything works out fine.

    • Of course people can game the system by saying their super organic gmo free fruit is just regular cheap fruit

      That's alright! The grocery store is probably just putting the exact same fruit out in both places ;)

  • They are using these hand-held engravers in the wrong market.

    The obvious best use is in cosmetic body modification. This, combined with normal tattooing, would be a powerful new addition to the body mod scene I think.

    There is already scarification, which is done with hot brands or razor blades.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org]

    This would be much quicker, and could do much more intricate designs on skin. Combined with traditional inking it could lead to very nice tattoos indeed.

    Seriously- branding fruit? Wr

  • by Opportunist ( 166417 ) on Wednesday June 21, 2017 @04:47AM (#54659369)

    No, not the "666", mark-of-the-beast guys. Yes, those too. But I'm talking about a more local conspiracy (frankly, I haven't met anyone outside of Europe that considers this real, shows that not all loonies that can come up with insane bullshit are located in the US), that those bars can act as some sort of "antenna" and absorb "frequencies" from various sources, which then affect the product, and of course in a negative way.

    But luckily, there's hope! You can buy a Sharpie... ok, of course it's not a simple Sharpie, it's an energetically activated (insert more mumbo-jumbo woo here) for the low, low price of 30-50 bucks, and with this you can "connect" those bars and neutralize them that way.

    By now some of makers of products aimed at ... let's say energetically challenged people have started to print their barcodes "neutralized" [wikipedia.org], pretty much saying "if they want it that way, it doesn't bother us, so ... let them have it...".

    We're now at the point where they seriously demand hazard pay for people working the supermarket checkout.

    So no, idiocy is by no means a privilege of the US, we can do it just as well!

    • by chthon ( 580889 )
      Which country is this? Never heard of this practice.
      • The text on the package is German (with a '.de' URL printed on the box), and it's on the German-language Wikipedia, so I'd say the country is Germany. I didn't notice anything like this when I visited a few months ago, but I went to (what I understand to be) a regular grocery store, not specialized for 'wellness products' or whatever the local euphemism for 'woo' is.
      • IIRC the epicenter of that loonie quake is Germany, Austria and Switzerland.

    • by SeaFox ( 739806 )

      No, not the "666", mark-of-the-beast guys. Yes, those too. But I'm talking about a more local conspiracy (frankly, I haven't met anyone outside of Europe that considers this real, shows that not all loonies that can come up with insane bullshit are located in the US), that those bars can act as some sort of "antenna" and absorb "frequencies" from various sources, which then affect the product, and of course in a negative way.

      If you'd RTFS, you'd see they aren't printing barcodes, they're printing the Arabic numeral code for the item to enter by hand at the checkout. A barcode would not be practical on an avocado, due to their bumpy, dark skin. It would be hard to get straight lines of good enough contrast.

      But I enjoyed your rant. Off-topic as it was.

      • by Calydor ( 739835 )

        ARABIC numeral code?!

        New conspiracy theory! The avocadoes carry encrypted messages to the terrorist cells!

  • by slashmydots ( 2189826 ) on Wednesday June 21, 2017 @05:07AM (#54659417)
    So basically tomorrow some headline-grabber piece of crap pseudo doctor will say lasering avocados causes autism. Thanks, UK doctors.
    • One guy walks into a store and asks for a pack of cigarettes. As usual, to discourage smoking, there is a warning printed on the pack:

      "Smoking causes impotence"

      The customer hands back the cigarette pack and tells the store clerk:

      "This is disgusting! Can I have a pack on which it says that smoking cause cancer ?"

      • by swb ( 14022 )

        A guy I know used to make a point of only buying packs that said they caused problems with pregnancy and then when someone criticized him for smoking he'd point out that THESE cigarettes were only hazardous to pregnant women.

    • How topical. Do you have any material on the millennium bug you want to share?
  • by Bowdie ( 11884 ) on Wednesday June 21, 2017 @05:25AM (#54659463) Homepage

    M&S brand coconuts with their logo, expiry date, and the till code as well. I don't know if it's laser'd or just plain old branding, but they've been doing that for a while now.

    They still wrap the bloody things in shrinkwrap for reasons unknown.

  • by pahles ( 701275 )
    Aldi in the Netherlands does scan its products, the cashier does not have to enter a code for every product. They used to do that, and I must say the old method was a lot faster. I've always had some kind of admiration for the Aldi cashiers to memorize all those product codes. I guess Aldi does not trust its cashiers anymore...
    • I seem to think Aldi got their barcode scanners around 2000 or so. At least here in the US. Prior to that the memorized everything.

  • Back in the early 80's, when I was working for a UK company called Laser-Scan, mostly doing digital cartography, we had a request about using a laser to brand bar-codes onto pigs as they went into the abbatoir. I can't remember anything coming of it, though.
  • M&S are one of the UKs largest retailers, but only about 60% of their revenue is from food. See here [marksandspencer.com]. Which means that they are outside of the top 10 in terms of grocery sales.They are a small player in terms of food sales who specialize in luxury foods. This is just a curiosity news piece about a small specialist retailer who have found another way to push their luxury brand and its values.
  • Laser burning a barcode on an avocado skin will pollute the air with more CO2, you insensitive clod!

  • Ten tons of paper and five tons of glue is what the article says. A single sheet of A4 paper weighs about 4.5 grams. The FDA supposedly has a few adhesives that are safe for food. I don't quite know the chemical makeup, but it's probably similar to polyvinyl acetate that Elmer's glue uses. Polyvinyl acetate has a mass of 1.19 g/cm^3. A sheet of A4 paper has a surface area of 236.22 cm^2 and a thickness of about 0.0102 cm, ergo a total volume of 2.409 cm^3. This is 2.867 grams of glue per sheet if the glue w
  • by zmooc ( 33175 ) <zmooc.zmooc@net> on Wednesday June 21, 2017 @09:42AM (#54660439) Homepage

    It really cannot be that difficult to make the checkout systems simply recognize unpacked food using computer vision....

  • Aldi hasn't been all-own-brand for years. They sell things like coca-cola here in the Netherlands...

  • In the Netherlands the new system is - you take your own hand-held scanner, go to the e.g. avocadoes, put say 5 in the basket, scan the price-label [you need only one per type of good] and you are done. No need to spend money laser etching the bar code on every fruit. Plus, no need for cashier. After the system was implemented I never looked back....funnily enough most people still prefer the interaction with the human - often I see long lines at the cashiers while the self-scanning machines stand idle...

  • They could just not label them like many other grocers. Try training your checkers better.

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