Is chewing gum environmentally-friendly?

I did it. I am completely gum-free! It took me almost a year to give up the temptation, and even now when someone offers me a piece, I stand silently for a moment as I weigh the options in my head. To chew or not to chew.

But think about it….does gum ever go away?

Since the age of four, when handed my first piece of Wrigley’s, wrapped in shiny foil and bright, yellow paper by a worker on our farm, I was a goner.  I slowly crinkled off the wrapper with my tiny fingers, the whiff of sugar traveling to my brain. I examined the curious grey rectangle dusted with a sprinkle of powdered sugar, and bit into it. I stared up at him, gave a dazzling smile, and told him he was my new best friend.

I chewed gum constantly, along with drinking tons of water and coffee to keep myself from eating for years, among many diet tricks. Most of the time it worked. Sometimes, it didn’t. My nutritionist said gum contained no nutritional value, caused my stomach to bloat, and I had to give it up. “You need to eat food when you’re hungry, not chew gum,” she preached.

But it was that crazy Christmas special Elf, that made me think how environmentally unfriendly gum is. Remember when Santa instructs Elf before his New York trip about what NOT TO DO? And then the Elf gets to New York and finds gum stuck on handrails in the subway and under desks and, well, just about everywhere. And he thinks it’s free candy, pulls them off and chews them— all.

How long do you think those had been there? How long do you think they would hang around?

So, I looked it up. Though two of the sites stated gum would decompose in five years and could be placed in the compost bin with any other food scraps, most of them said…well, never.  These sites claimed because chewing gum is non-organic and its base created from non-biodegradable substances of wax, plastic, latex or rubber, it never breaks down. I don’t know what to believe, but it appears there are no official reports on its environmental impact, as it’s only been around since the days of Laura Wilder. I wonder what happened to the piece she chewed…

EHow Health explained recycled gum can be used in the manufacture of athletic running tracks and drainage ditches. But gum is mainly a costly mess draining tax dollars for clean up, and remains wherever it’s placed.

Chicza Rainforest Gum was the first biodegradable gum invented and turns to powder within six weeks. It was the only one I found. Made in Mexico, Chiza  is available in many countries, but of course, not in the United States.

 Why are gum companies creating a product that will last so long? (Think about how long you chew a piece.) Are we going to chew it in our graves? Have you tried throwing chewed gum in the compost pile? Would you?


38 responses to “Is chewing gum environmentally-friendly?

  1. I never thought that gum would decompose that long… hmmm. A very contemplating post

    • Thanks Dabawenyo life. I had never thought about it either. I gave it up for health reasons, really. But then I got to thinking… see it everywhere, it must stick around for a while. ha! Get it!

  2. Welcome to the other side. I switched to sugar free mints ten years ago and never looked back. Not for any moral or ethical reason, I just don’t like paying for something that makes my jaw hurt. lol

  3. I liked the part about 4 year old Jennifer! I remember when our dog got ahold of some gum, it was funny to watch him chew, I had to pry his mouth open and take it out. This topic is definitely something to chew on.

    • Joy–something to chew on. I like that. I remember that 4-year-old moment very well. Every time he saw me after that he gave me a piece until I was 11 and we moved away.

  4. Sometimes I feel some kind of pain around my teeth whenever some sweet part of chewing gum seeps into my teeth. I still wonder why that sensation only comes with chewing gum. My anxiety about gum had just been with respect to teeth while in mouth. You’ve just enlightened me on how long it stays without decomposing! Enlightening post indeed!

  5. How weird, I have this post lined up for my zero waste because Little Miss Green spotted the biodegradable one so I let her have some – for the first time in her life! Now I’m her best friend LOL! But seeing gum on the pavements over here makes me feel really sad. It costs our Government millions of pounds every year to clean up. Anyway, congrats on giving it up and to be honest, you’ve done your body a favour – chewing stimulates the stomach to produce acid in preparation for food; if you don’t give it food you can get a stomach ulcer. So not worth it ,..

  6. yeah… I am a chewing gum free for… mmm… more that 5 years. But my reasons to give it up weren’t so green… my teeth simply said no. I actually do not miss it at all 🙂

  7. I very rarely indulge in chewing gum, I choose to suck mint candies instead. Good stuff to know though, had no idea gum took that long to decompose. Yikes!

  8. Ah, the joy of Juicy Fruit gum. When I first became addicted I was probably about seven or eight. Five sticks for a nickel. I avoided the issue of whether it was bio-degradable by swallowing it when I was done – much to my parents’ consternation. Fortunately, I haven’t seen it on the market for years… so I’ve moved on to other vices.

  9. Good post. I’ve kinda given up gum but not all the way. I still walk on the wild side with some Wrigley’s. Cheers!

  10. Thanks for the info about the chewing gum….. I cant take chewing gum for more than 15mins. My jaw really sore…

  11. I never thought of putting gum in my compost. Just seems like I would have a sticky mess on my shovel when I put it in the garden. I’m not that big of a chewer, anyway. But my kiddo is! She loves it. Hm. It really does never go away- one more reason to stop chewing!

  12. I hate gum-chewing! People who are always chewing gum remind me of cows chewing the cud. Hopefully that will help you stay off it for evermore!

    • Bridget—you sound just like my brother. He’s always said that. The same farm worker offered him a stick of gum at age 2 and after trying it once, he always shook his head no. My prior landlady used to say it was the downfall of the nation!

  13. We usually just buy gum when we fly. I tried Glee gum recently which is similar to Chiclets but made from actual chicle and packaged in cardboard only. It seems a lot easier just to quit though. I chewed gum on my flight today and my jaw hurts! As usual when I read your posts it makes me think you read my mind. This is something that I have been contemplating. I worry about my kids swallowing gum. If it’s all plastic and chemicals then yuck! We compost or green bin all of our food waste and I’ve been curious about the gum situation. I do just throw it away on the rare occasion. There is also an asian country that has banned gum for years because of the littered gum left on streets. It’s everywhere.

    • Stephanieough—we think so much alike! I think it’s in Singapore. I read that somewhere. Yeah, if swallowing it is no good and putting it in the compost is a no-go, what’s a girl to do? I say chuck it. Chew on ice. (Though I’m sure the dentist would disagree with me there.) I am a big fan of ice. Sometimes when I go to a restaurant and they ask what I want to drink, I want to reply, “Just ice, please.” But I don’t. 🙂

  14. All right! I got it Stephanie! 🙂

    @ Mom Photographer—I used to think the same thing about my dad, and now I do it!

  15. Jody—yes, ask your son. I’m betting yes.

  16. Another downer: It contains glycerin which usually comes from animals (so the veggie (blog) roll tells me!)

  17. This caught my attention as I’d just recently read a newspaper article about a new chewing gum collection/ recycling business in the UK. I’d have to do more research, but it’s worth checking out 🙂

  18. @No Sarah–wow. Mobile phone covers made out of chewing gum! Now, that’s creative!

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