When we chew our favourite gum, what we're really chewing is plastic
After lunch at work, to stay awake on the road, before a date, or just because we're bored, we all love gum, but we rarely think about what it actually contains... But it is important to know that the industrial gums we chew on on a daily basis are made using artificial polymers, which are by-products of the oil industry. In a nutshell: plastic!
But why put plastic in chewing gum? In the 20th century the large American companies that made the world's chewing gum supply started to replace the natural gum base made from tree sap with an artificial gum base, in order to cut costs. In order to imitate the naturally chewy texture of the sapodilla tree gum, the factories could only find one solution: adding polymers from the rubber family to their new recipe. At the time, environmental concerns weren't at the forefront of consumers' minds, and this change met little resistance.
Artificial gums: a major source of pollution.
Industrially-produced chewing gum is a major source of pollution. We all know about the environmental damage done by the oil industry, and health conscious modern consumers may wish to avoid chewing foodstuffs derived from plastic.
We also need to consider the pollution from industrial gum once it is disposed of by the end consumer. To get rid of the chewing gum which litters our pavements, town councils often have to resort to hosing down the streets. As it enters our sewers, this water washes the industrial plastic based gum away with it, entering our sewers and ending up in the rivers and seas, polluting our water supply and poisoning sealife.
Even when responsibly disposed of in the bin, these gums end up buried underground in our landfills, where they will break down over several years into microplastics, which will be ingested by insects, animals and plants, polluting our land and ending up in our plates.