We can buy chewing gums everywhere, in every little shop on the street and we mostly use them for refreshment after lunch. Chewing gum is definitely something so small that we do not really find it harmful for the environment. Unfortunately, 80-90% of them are not disposed of properly and they present the second most common littering, after the cigarette butts. For example, littering was so bad in Singapore that they completely banned the chewing gums.
What is chewing gum?
Gum – chewing has a long history, going back to Greeks, who chewed a similar product from resin of the mastic tree.
In 1869, a Mexican exile named General Antonio de Santa Anna introduced “chicle” a resin from the Sapodilla tree. He was trying to vulcanize the resin into rubber for boots and tires, but he failed. He used the sap and made it into chewing gum which had a subtle caramel flavour. Within a few years, he was mass-producing several different flavours.
In decades, chewing gums became quite an obsession and very popular and many manufactures replaced natural resin with Synthetic polymer. It can happen that the same company that makes you car’s tires also manufactures the base for many major gum brands. It is very close to chewing fossil fuel.
While these new gums are supremely soft and chewable, they are not biodegradable. You probably also remember how your parents warn you not to “eat it” because it is not digestive. There are probably not enough gums in the world to create a major environmental issue, but the volume of waste is not entirely insignificant. I found a statistic that worldwide humans chew about 560,000 tons of gum each year which will all end in the landfills (Slate.com, 2011)!
A few entrepreneurial green individuals have developed technology to recycle chewed gum, which they can turn into rubber containers or children’s toys. But that means chewers would have to throw their used gum into specially designated waste containers, rather than into ordinary trash bins. It seems to be to “dreamy” to think that people will throw their gum in specially design container, since most of the gums usually finish on the ground. That has to be eliminated first. Cleaning the gums which stick all over the places, require many resources and increase environmental impact of chewing gums since cleaners have to use strong chemicals to remove it.
Fortunately, “Chicle” isn’t lost in the history and it is coming back as an eco-friendly alternative to modern gum. If you want to know more about chewing gums in general and how can chewing be more earth friendly choice, please visit http://www.chicza.com Also in India you can buy more natural gums like for example http://www.treehuggergum.com/catalog_list.php
As an individual, the only responsible method of gum disposal is wrapping it up in gum’s wrapper or in between a paper and put it into your trash. While it ending up in landfill isn’t ideal, it certainly should not be flushed down the toilet or thrown into waterways. If you have to chew, try to use natural chewing gums.
But the best would be to eliminate them completely. If you think about gums, there is not much use of it. It’s just a habit.
Katja Polc, Member of Vatavaran team