Chewing gum is plastic
The Ancient Greeks used to chew resin from the Mastic tree while the Aztecs and Mayans enjoyed chicle, a tree sap that they also used as an early form of adhesive. Native Americans chewed the resin from spruce trees and settlers quickly picked up the habit.
By 1848 the first commercial chewing gum was being produced in America and before the turn of the 18th century a number of products were on the market, many of which, in name, are still in existence today.
Chicle was originally the raw ingredient of choice but as the need to chew expanded around the world supply was never going to meet the growing demand and by the 1950’s manufacturers were replacing it with a synthetic product. Nowadays, with the exception of a couple of ‘natural’ brands still made from chicle, all of the chewing gum on sale is made from butadiene-based synthetic rubber, a polymer, a plastic product made from oil, a bit like the stuff we use to make car tyres.
You probably had no idea that you were chewing on what is essentially a lump of malleable plastic and that’s not surprising, because the manufacturers don’t actually tell you as much – they kind of dodge around the detail. On the Wrigley’s website page entitled ‘What Gum is Made Of’ the section about the gum base, the main ingredient, states, ‘Gum base puts the “chew” in chewing gum, binding all the ingredients together for a smooth, soft texture. The Wrigley Company uses synthetic gum base materials for a consistent and safe base that provides longer-lasting flavor, improved texture and reduced tackiness.’ It almost sounds natural and rather yummy. I suspect if they wrote, ‘The Wrigley Company uses butadiene-based synthetic rubbers, polymers synthesised from petroleum by products, similar to those used in car tyres,’ that might not be so appealing.
The the global chewing gum market is worth around US$19 billion a year with two companies accounting for 60% of the market share and it is growing by approximately 4.5% every year. That’s 374 trillion sticks of gum with a total estimated weight of 100,000 tonnes. That is 100,000 tons of plastic pollution being thrown into the environment every year! It is estimated that in the next 5 years, over 1 million metric tonnes of chewing gum will be produced, chewed and thrown away, totally unregulated and without anyone really knowing what the implications are. Clearly something needs to be done.
Text modified from "Justoneocean"
#northernbeachescleanupcrew #plastic #chewinggum #plasticfree
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