Millions of produce stickers are manufactured each year, requiring hundreds of thousands of manpower hours and energy to run the plants. Work is being done to create a laser etching on the produce and the stickers can be eliminated altogether. The labels are used to give the retailer and the consumer information about their produce. The numbers are used as part of the checkout process, the way other products have barcodes. Also, you can tell from the number if it is organic produce (begins with a 9) or genetically modified (begins with an 8).
The labels help grocers and shippers tell the different types of fruit apart. But yes, it does waste a lot of paper and materials per year. Unfortunately, no better solution has been found yet.
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