Plastic-Free Chewing Gum? Yeah, It’s a Thing
A recent survey found that 75% of British consumers would support a ban on chewing gum made of plastic, reports Circular, a media outlet serving sustainability professionals working in resources and waste. Not surprisingly, the survey was commissioned by an upstart plastic-free chewing gum brand named Nuud.
If you’ve ever looked at the ingredients listed on chewing gum packaging, you would have come across something called “gum base.” This is the material that puts the “chew” in gum, and is composed of food-grade polymers, waxes, and softeners, explains the International Chewing Gum Association on its website. Gum base gives gum the texture desired by consumers and enables it to “effectively deliver sweetness, flavor, and various other benefits, including dental benefits,” according to the association.
Nuud founder Keir Carnie sees things differently. He told Circular that “scientific evidence is emerging all the time revealing the disgusting truth that plastic is getting into our bloodstreams and vital organs. Plastic in our bodies is undeniably a major threat to human health. We’ve begun to make strides to cut out needless plastic. Take the ban on straws, for example. Now we want consumers to get behind our fight against plastic gum by chewing plants not plastic.”
That last bit about chewing plants, not plastic, is central to the brand’s marketing campaign, by the way. The phrase “chew plants, not plastic” is prominent on product packaging. Messaging discipline is top notch, even if the message itself begs the question: How harmful to human health is the plastic in chewing gum? I’m sure there are studies floating around showing its potential threat to human health if ingested in tremendous quantities, but a couple of things come to mind:
- You’re not supposed to swallow chewing gum (which does lead to a hugely annoying littering issue, but I won’t get into that here).
- Synthetic elastomers have been used in chewing gum since the early 1950s, so if the plastic content were harmful to human health, I imagine we would have some conclusive evidence by now. Unless, of course, one were to think that Big Gum has followed the tobacco industry model in hiding and discrediting health studies. An anti-plastics activist actually made that comparison in commenting on the survey.
Back to the survey itself: 84% of the 2,000 respondents wanted more transparency from gum brands and clear labeling. Can’t disagree with that. I’m guessing that many, if not most, did not know that “chewing gum is basically plastic doped with flavors and colorings,” as the BBC Science Focus puts it. And consumers have every right to know what a product contains in clear language.
However, 74% of people responding to the survey expressed concern that chewing gum contains the “same plastics found in several everyday items,” reported Circular. It doesn’t mention that the plastics in question are food-grade poiymers that have undergone extensive testing and been determined safe for food use by FDA and international bodies that are not aligned with any commercial interests.
Unlike, say, a plastic-free chewing gum brand commissioning a survey to gauge consumer concerns with the presence of plastics in their Hubba Bubba.