Do you remember those adverts telling us that chewing gum after every meal will make your smile beautiful and fresh? But those adverts forgot to mention a few small details…… you are probably chewing toxic plastic!? or that chewing gum isn’t biodegradeable because it’s made from plastic which is another source of plastic pollution in our world.
After World War II, chemists learned to make synthetic rubber, which came to replace most natural rubber in chewing gum (e.g., polyethylene and polyvinyl acetate). Tossed on the sidewalk, chewing gum stays there until it’s removed which is costly and a time consuming process. Littered gum can also easily find its way into the food chain. Just think, when you flush your gum into the toilet or the rain washes it down the water drains, the gum will end up in our oceans.
The amount of gum we chew every year is more than 250.000 tons of waste. Most chewing gums include ‘gum base’ as one of their ingredients, but what is ‘gum base’? ‘Gum base’ can consist of petroleum, lanolin, glycerin, polyethylene, polyvinyl acetate, petroleum wax, stearic acid, and latex may be among the components. We, as consumers will never know what is used in particular chewing gums as manufacturors aren’t required to go into more detail.
All of that means that chewing gum can cause environmental problems as well as health problems.
Here are a few tips on how to stop another causes of plastic pollution:
- First and probably the most obvious tip is to simply stop chewing conventional gum. Along with its plastic packaging it’s the worlds second most common form of litter after cigarette butts.
- If chewing gum is a habit then choose natural chewing gums. Look for ‘chicle’ as one of the ingredients as it is a natural form of rubber and is 100% biodegradable.
- Don’t forget to recycle your gum. Look for gum recycling bins in your city. Recycled chewing gum can be turned into rubber containers, kid’s toys, drainage and construction material.
Imaging you chew your gum for a few minutes and it stays in our oceans or landfills for many years.