13/06/2018 10:33 BST | Updated 13/06/2018 10:33 BST

This Is What Your Chewing Gum Habit Is Doing To The Environment

It's a sticky situation.

Whether it’s used to look cool or simply to keep your breath minty fresh, chewing gum isn’t great for the planet.

In fact, it’s actually made from ingredients that make it super difficult to break down, including synthetic rubber, which is also used to make car tyres and flooring. Another issue is the huge litter problem it causes. In fact, 95% of our country’s streets is stained with gum, according to Keep Britain Tidy. The Local Government Association has also recommended a tax to help pay for a big clean up. 

So it’s definitely time to make our habit as eco-friendly as possible. Here’s everything you need to know.

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Once you’re finished with it, it’s not easy to break down

Seeing as the majority of chewing gum brands are not biodegradable, the chances are that your chewing gum is going to be around a lot longer than you. One particularly problematic ingredient is polyvinyl acetate, a thermoplastic polymer used to make glue, which is used in the chewing gum base of a number of the UK’s most popular chewing gum products. So it quite literally sticks around for a long time after use.

Wrigley, the company responsible for chewing gum brands such as Extra, Hubba Bubba and Airwaves has confirmed that polyvinyl acetate is used in a selection of their products. When HuffPost UK asked which brands included this ingredient, Wrigley was unable to confirm. 

But, did you know that chewing gum can be recycled?

Don’t despair. There are super sustainable ways for your chewing gum to be reused. British designer Anna Bullus has helped set up the first company in the world to recycle and reprocess chewing gum products. Backed by companies such as Wrigley, the start-up, called Gum Drop, makes products such as pencils, shoe soles and coffee cups.

According to Anna, chewing gum is the second biggest global litter source, making it a very important environmental problem. “We spend £150 million a year on cleaning up gum litter in the UK. I wanted to create a solution that tackled gum litter from the front end that also incorporated recycling,” she told HuffPost UK.

Recycling company Terracycle also run chewing gum recycling projects across the US and Mexico, and hope to add these efforts to the rest of their UK projects soon. “We clean and blend [the chewing gum we collect] with other plastics and rubbers. We can then reform it into things like door stops and rubber flooring,” Stephen Clarke, head of communications at Terracycle Europe, told HuffPost UK. 

 

There are also biodegradable chewing gum alternatives

For those who want to switch to a more eco-friendly chewing gum brand, fear not. Chicza’s organic rainforest chewing gum is not only biodegradable, but contains elastic rubber from the chicle tree, which is found in the Mayan rainforest. It is made by boiling the tree sap from the tree into a thick paste. A vegan, plastic-free and gluten-free option which is Chewsy, which is made from five completely natural ingredients.