My husband and I were having lunch in a restaurant with Samantha, our four-year-old granddaughter. While we were awaiting service, we noticed she was chewing gum.
“Where did you get the gum? “ We asked.
“From under the table,” she replied triumphantly.
Until then, we never thought about gum disposal— especially how to get rid of it secretly and fast.
Chewing gum is a major littering problem second only to cigarettes. As smoking has declined, ashtrays have disappeared. Other receptacles which might receive gum are rarely available. So what do you do with your chewed wad?
It is a sticky situation.
Research by Statisa, a German Company specializing in consumer data and marketing, reports global chewing gum sales are 32 billion US dollars a year. Asians are the champion chewers, spending an estimated 187 billion hours chewing 60,000 tons of gum. The US National Institutes of Health says Americans chew a piece of gum for 30 minutes.
The gum being masticated by the multitudes is, unfortunately, not biodegradable. The piece a Japanese person chews today could show up in the future in the belly of a fish swimming in the Atlantic ocean.
The gum our great grandparents chewed was made out of biodegradable chicle, sap from trees in Central America. The majority of gum today is made out of synthetic chicle, basically plastic with artificial flavors and artificial coloring. If you check my Consumer’s Dictionary of Food Additives (Crown Publisher), you will see information about other ordinary gum ingredients such as Yellow No5, Red 40, aspartame. BHT and corn syrup.
Gum manufacturers do not have to reveal their “gum base” because the FDA allows them to keep it a secret. However, it is known that what gives gum its chewiness is butyl rubber, the same stuff used to line tractor tires and other oversize industrial rubber goods.
There is hope the gum disposal problem will someday be solved. Scientists, entrepreneurs, and environmentalists are working to find ways to combat gum litter.
Among the most out front is JustOneOcean, a British charity founded by David Jones in 2013. a diver and an underwater photographer, justoneocean.org Jones saw the devastation the human race was causing the oceans. His foundation raises awareness and supports research worldwide to protect the seas for future generations. . The organization recently launched the first shopping mall site in Scotland to transform discarded chewing gum into Frisbees, pencils, and other valuable and re-usable products justoneoceanstore.org
Three researchers Nader Ncim, Namho Kim, and Nanjun Cho wrote an article published in Polymers, (Basel) “From Street to Road: An Innovative Approach to Explore Discarded Chewing Gum As A Performance-Enhancing Modifier for Road Pavement Applications.“ The gum would keep, according to the trio’s conclusion, the asphalt from cracking; The article was first published in 1963, and gum is still not benefiting the streets.
Progress is slow but gaining. New gums such as Glee Gum (gleegum.com) and Simply Gum (simplygum.com) are made from chicle, are biodegradable, and sold online and in environmentally conscious groceries such as Whole Foods.
Some universities and stores have started using “Gum Drop” receptacles scattered about for wads of discarded gum. In the meantime, until the problem of waste gum is solved, wrap your wad in paper and put in a wastebasket. Otherwise, some space kid may find Samantha’s gum under a space table hundreds of years from now and chew it.