Sustainability Tip 56: Chew Plants, Not Plastic

Chewing gum is a regular habit for many. Yet, the fresh breath experience we all enjoy is one of the worst causes of litter in the world today.

This is because most chewing gum is actually a single-use plastic. Just one piece contains as much as a straw.

You may not even have known this because, by law, gum brands don’t have to disclose it. Instead, they can keep it quiet under the term ‘gum base’.

That doesn’t change the fact it does contain plastics, including polyvinyl acetate, which you may know from back in your school days as it’s the main base for PVA glue. Not exactly the kind of thing you want in your mouth.

Another common plastic used is polyethylene, the same as in plastic bags and one of the main culprits behind the 21 million tonnes of microplastics thought to be in the Atlantic Ocean.

All of these ingredients mean that your gum will definitely outlast you… and probably your great-grandchildren too.

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The extent of this issue is almost unbelievable. 100,000 tonnes are chewed every year in the U.K. alone, and nearly all of that is not put into bins.

Because of this, 95% of Britain’s streets are stained by it, making them second only to cigarette butts.

If it somehow doesn’t get stuck there, it will often find its way into our water sources and, because it’s so sticky, collects toxins along the way. This then ends up in the fish we eat and, eventually, in us too.

We don’t even exactly know how long a lot of these plastics will take to break down, and they could be around for thousands of years.

In the next five years, it’s estimated that over 1 million tonnes of chewing gum will be produced and thrown away, completely unregulated and without anyone knowing what long-term effects that may have.

Clearly, something needs to be done.

man chewing gum on pink background

Some have gone to extreme lengths to solve the gum issue. In Singapore, it’s completely banned unless you have a prescription from a doctor or dentist.

Other countries and cities have also now introduced specific gum bins, a programme so successful it’s halved the amount of gum littering the streets.

It’s not always been this way. People around the world have been chewing gum for thousands of years, from the Ancients Greeks using tree resin or the Mayans gnawing on chicle, a type of sap.

This means that instead of giving up on gum entirely, we just have to learn from the past and make sure we’re chewing on the right kind.

One brand doing things right is Nuud. They make gum the same way it was made all those years ago, using chicle as their base. Unlike other gum brands, they are also transparent about the ingredients used in all of their products!

They don’t even contain sugar. Instead, Nuud’s gum is sweetened with Xylitol, which comes from the bark of birch and beech trees.

'chew plants not plastic' written in large black writing on blue background, cartoon outline of man leaning against three gum packets underneath

All of these natural ingredients mean that their gum is 100% biodegradable. There’s not even any plastic in their packaging!

Their super slim mailboxes can fit through a letterbox. So whether you’re in or out, you’ll get your gum.

If you want to chew plants instead of plastic, you can get a free trial of Nuud gum here.

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