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Can we Chew on This: The Truth About Chewing Gum and the Environment?

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is gum biodegradable

It is estimated that each year, Americans chew through more than 1.2 billion pounds of chewing gum. Although we might not think about this sticky, pink and blue and white and green and black and spearmint chewed-up stuff all that much, the fact is it’s a big business — one with roots as old as civilization itself.

The first form of chewing gum was made from tree resin; naturally sweetened with honey or fruit juices, it offered an energy-rich mouthful for weary travelers (and their sore jaws) long before energy bars were invented. Today candy manufacturers produce more than 10 billion sticks of chewing gum each year — enough to create a sidewalk bubblegum high heel 12 inches high, according to the Bubble Gum Manufacturer’s Association.

No matter how you regard it, at least one thing is clear about chewing gum: It’s here to stay. So are its byproducts, which include sticky goo stuck in your hair, on your shoes and even on gravestones in cemeteries. But what about the environmental impact of this chewed-up treat?

Chomping Away at the Facts

Everyone knows that sticking gum in a public place is bad manners, but few people consider that their favorite flavor might be contributing to global warming. According to one well-known myth surrounding gum, if all the discarded sticks found their way into trees instead of sidewalks and gutters, they would hold so much weight that they would snap the branches.

In truth, trees must produce a certain amount of sap in order to digest gum that is stuck in their bark. Trees can often outgrow the effects of regular ingestion but sometimes develop small lesions or other abnormalities from long-term exposure to trapped gum. If ingested by wildlife, discarded gum can also pose a digestive blockage hazard and has been known to kill wild birds and squirrels who mistake it for food.

Whether you want to call it “natural,” “organic” or simply sugarless, you can find a large selection of popular chewing gums made without artificial sweeteners these days — just be sure to read labels carefully when you shop. Chewing gums with natural ingredients include brands such as Spry , Wrigley’s Spruce and Xylichew .

If you want to be healthier for your heart, try not to eat any foods with artificial sweeteners. The best snack choices are fruit or vegetables because they don’t have any chemicals added to them, but if you do want something sweet, make sure it’s low in fat .

Here are some more FAQs:

Q. Has chewing gum and its packaging ever been recycled ?

A. Yes, chewing gum and the packaging for it is now 100% recyclable . Many cities in the USA now offer recycling programs for disposing of used chewing gum and its wrappers; however, there is no organized program currently operating on a national level to supply such facilities with discarded gum or other natural products containing biodegradable substances that can therefore be recycled into new products.

As part of an effort to educate the public about its commitment to sorting out what goes where, Procter & Gamble, one of the largest manufacturers of consumer goods in the world , has announced plans to develop ” earth friendly ” plastic packaging starting sometime around 2002 — a move which should have a positive impact on that portion of the company’s business.

Q. Is gum made from corn ?

A. Since 2003, Wrigley’s has used gum base made by Glee Gum , which is in fact derived from corn . Although this new technology accounts for only 0.05% of total gum production (which means you’d have to chew 12 pieces per day for 10 years straight before your daily dose of artificial sweeteners would add up to one whole bag of chips), many health-conscious consumers still feel better knowing this is an option they can choose when shopping around in the chewing gum aisle at the grocery store.

A few years ago, Glee Gum set out to create a gum that would be made from corn and sugar substitutes but would still taste just as good as the original formulas most people have gotten used to over the years. The company is currently seeking approval for this product in Europe and Japan . If approved by European health officials, it could lead to a substantial reduction of the region’s overall levels of artificial sweeteners — which really would be a win-win situation for everyone involved!

Conclusion

According to one well-known myth surrounding gum, if all the discarded sticks found their way into trees instead of sidewalks and gutters, they would hold so much weight that they would snap the branches. Although many believe that chewing gum is made with effective pesticides, this is not true when it comes to natural ingredients containing biodegradable substances which are therefore recyclable. Chewing gums containing natural ingredients include brands such as Spry, Wrigley’s Spruce and Xylichew with fruit or vegetables being a safer choice than foods with artificial sweeteners without chemicals added in them. If you want to be healthier for your heart , try not to eat food with artificial sweeteners because they don’t have any chemicals added to them, but if you do want something sweet, make sure it’s low in fat. If you’re looking for an alternative to chewing gum with artificial sweeteners , check out fruit or vegetables without any chemicals added to them, but if you do want something sweet, make sure it’s low in fat. One small piece of chewing gum wrapped in paper will take anywhere from 6 months to 2 years to decompose. Gum doesn’t belong on the sidewalk so be sure to throw it away in a trash can where it will be recycled into new products. Corn is used as the base of manufactured gums; however there is only 0.05% of total gum production which means that if you eat 12 pieces per day for 10 years straight, your daily dose of artificial sweeteners will add up to one whole bag of chips.

 

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