Chewing gum has been popular ever since it was first invented. But have you ever wondered what is in the gum you chew or what happens to gum once we’re finished with it?
Is gum biodegradable and if it isn’t, what effect is it having on the environment. We find out in this article.
What is Chewing Gum?
Chewing gum is a food product that is designed to be chewed to release flavor. The most common flavor is mint but fruit based flavors are also very popular.
Once chewed, gum needs to be discarded as it cannot be digested within our stomach due to the ingredients it contains.
Most of the chewing gum made today is made using a gum base which includes a mixture of polymers, plasticisers and resins. These ingredients give gum its texture and allow it to be chewed indefinitely.
Food-grade softeners, preservatives, sweeteners, colours and flavorings are added to give gum its flavour and appearance.
Is Chewing Gum Biodegradable?
No, gum isn’t biodegradable.
Whether chewed or unchewed, gum lasts for a very long time and will not biodegrade naturally.
Some companies have focussed on inventing a biodegradable chewing gum in the hope of reducing the impact this form of litter has on the environment.
How Many Years Does It Take for Gum to Biodegrade?
It can take 50 years before gum starts to break down. It is suggested that gum is likely to take over 500 years to decompose completely.
One of the biggest environmental problems is that gum isn’t recyclable, but a company called Gumdrop has found a way to reuse waste gum to create rubber soles for shoes and boots.
Is Gum Bad for The Environment?
Yes, gum is bad for the environment, and that’s because 90% of gum is not disposed of properly. Chewing gum is the second most common litter found on the streets after cigarette butts.
Singapore have banned chewing gum due to the impact its litter had on the city. Many countries have now introduced gum bins to help keep the streets clean which have reduced gum litter by 46%.
The gum that doesn’t make it into bins or stuck to the streets often finds its way into our water sources. This gum then ends up in the fish we consume. All the toxins the gum has accumulated on its journey also ends up in our food.
The only correct way to dispose of your gum is to place it in the bin.
Does Gum Contain Plastic?
Yes, gum contains plastic. And we all know how bad plastic is for the environment.
Gum is made from polymers, which is are a type of synthetic plastic. But that isn’t the only problem ingredient.
Your chewing gum is made from the following ingredients:
- Butadiene-styrene rubber Isobutylene-isoprene copolymer (butyl rubber)
- Paraffin (via the Fischer-Tropsch process)
- Petroleum wax
- Polyvinyl acetate
These materials are also used for:
- Making glue and other adhesives
- Making rubber tires and flooring
- Making plastic products such as bags and packaging film
Chewing gum isn’t biodegradable so it should always be disposed of responsibly by wrapping it in tissue and putting it in a waste bin.
Several innovative chewing gum products are entering the market such as Natural Mayan gum which claims to be organic and sustainable as well as biodegradable.