Before chewing gum became popular chewing gum was made with natural-based ingredients. They mainly used chicle, a resin extracted from a tree, which gives the gums its 'chewy' consistency. Many gum brands changed the traditional recipe and replaced the natural base with a cheap alternative. The new gum base is a chemical cocktail of petrol-based polymers. One of those generally added polymers is 'Polyethylene' which is also used for the production of plastic bags and bottles. Even Goodyear- yes, the company that makes car tires- manufactures a gum base for many major gum brands.
We are facing problems where we obtain consumer products from non-renewable sources, not knowing what the potential impact is on our health, and how to tackle the chewing gum disposal.
However, the mixture of polymers isn't harmful (yet) to the consumer, it only prevents the gum from being biodegradable. The polymers make sure it will stick smoothly on the pavement. This makes chewing gum the second most common waste after cigarette butts. It even adds up to more than 250,000 tons of waste each year. This amount excludes the pollution of the packaging.
Animals both on land and in the water will nibble on the discarded gum and fill themselves with toxins. The invisible plastic finds another way back in our food chain as a result.
Local authorities feel responsible and employ different methods to control this insignificant problem. Such as lasers, corrosive chemicals, freezing or steaming the litter off, use high-pressure cleaners with hot and cold water, but often end up scraping it off. If they ever find an effective method to remove the gum. Then Ben Wilson has to look for another format for his art.
How can we help?
- First of all the chewer should take responsibility for his/ her chewing gum.
- Watch out for pink bubble-shaped bins or a special chewing gum disposal bin.
- Are such bins not available? Wrap your gum in a piece of paper first. (It is less harmful when it ends up in the landfill.)
- Buying a package of gum? Look for labels noting: 'All-natural, free of synthetic polymer or biodegradable'. Recommended brands: Glee Gum, True Gum, Simply Gum, Chicza, Chewsy Gum ... (available in health food stores).