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Biodegradable chewing gum could save our sidewalks

Chewing gum, the sticky bane of sidewalks and park benches across the globe, now has biodegradable ingredients to rival stubborn oil-based synthetics.

Turns out the asymmetrical spots we see every day squished into our sideways, public monuments, and benches, may actually outlive us if failed to be scraped away and discarded.

Everyone enjoys the 20 or so minty bites of a piece of chewing gum, before it turns into a tasteless globular mess and mild jaw ache. But if you previously thought failing to dispose of it properly was no biggie, we’re about the burst that bubble for you forever.

If, for some odd reason, you feel the compulsion to keep buying gum, we will offer up a number of readily available alternatives way more friendly for both the planet (and your gut), so don’t click away.

A quick Google search shows the polymers and synthetics found in almost all gums that keep it suitably rubbery and stop it perishing within our mouths quickly are also the reason it has become such a stubborn menace to our environment.

Baring many of the same ingredients that go into plastic bottles and bike tyres, such as polyisobutylene – which is primarily used as an engine lubricant and adhesive (yum) – gum today is recognised as the world’s second most common form of litter behind cigarette butts.

Global data shows that the amount of gum chewed in a year adds up to more than 250,000 tons of waste, with the disposal of gum at landfills in that time costing approximately $2 million USD. If that hasn’t raised your eyebrows, now consider that 80-90% of all chewing gums fails to be disposed of in any litter receptacle.

This means that gum, frankly, is far more than just an eyesore or something to secure a dodgy table leg at school.

Past research has shown that discarded gum can even make its way into the food chain. Responsible in rare cases for clogging the digestive and respiratory systems of birds, which can obviously lead to death, gum accumulates toxins in the ocean and is sometimes found within fish that ends up on supermarket shelves.

Thankfully, as we suggested earlier, there are environmental scientists committed to engineering sustainable gum to end this unsavoury cycle.

In 2011, Professor Terence Cosgrove, a scientist at the University of Bristol, created the first mainstream brand of gum dubbed Rev7 which dissolves into a fine powder. Amazingly, the unique polymer structure of his gum is said to encourage water to form a layer around it and break it down within just six months.

Jumping back to the present, the Violet Beauregards of this world can start to chew brands like Simple Gum, Glee, and Chicza, which utilise a renewable resource called chicle harvested from Manilkara trees in the rainforest.

These biodegradable brands use purely natural resources instead of petrochemicals, making them far less pollutant in cities. They’re also widely available in big multinational stores like Whole Foods.

Sustainable gum is definitely becoming more popular as the years pass, with True Gum the latest company to receive six figure investment to secure suppliers globally.

If you’ve yet to see any of these brands arriving at your local coop, maybe do a bulk online order and chew on a mint in the meantime. Make sure you recycle the packet though, eh?


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