Is extra gum biodegradable? (11 ingredients of extra gum)

In this article, it shall be known whether extra gum is biodegradable or not. Various other topics covered would be: 

  • What is gum?
  • What is extra gum?
  • What is biodegradable?
  • Why should gum be biodegradable?
  • What is the relation of extra gum to health (physical and mental)
  • Is extra gum recyclable?
  • FAQs

Is extra gum biodegradable?

No, extra gum is not biodegradable because it contains hydrophobic polymers (plastics). However, extra gum is recyclable. 

Extra gum is linked to a number of positive and negative side effects on the mind and health. Since it is not biodegradable, its impacts on the environment are negative.

However, there are some biodegradable chewing gums also being made commercially available which can be opted to save the environment. 

What is gum?

In order to understand the science behind gum being biodegradable or not, it is important to know what gum is in the first place. Other aspects such as why gum is used and what gum is made from are also important to actually understand the science behind biodegradability. 

Gum or otherwise known as chewing gum is a soft, rubbery substance that is meant to be chewed and not swallowed. The basic ingredients of chewing gum are: 

  • Preservatives
  • Additives
  • Sweeteners 
  • Gum 
  • Fillers 
  • Resin 
  • Softeners 

All these materials that constitute gum are used for particular properties of any chewing gum. For example, the use of resin is done so that strength is added to the gum so that it may be held together. 

The use of softeners, sweeteners, and additives is intended to give gum the required characteristics which make gum competitive and acceptable in the consumer market. 

Filers are used to give a particular texture to gum which usually is calcium carbonate. 

However, it is claimed that different producers of gum keep their gum recipes unexposed so that their competitive advantage is kept intact because otherwise other companies could also copy their recipe leading to a loss of sales. 

What is extra gum? (11 ingredients of extra gum) 

Extra gum is a brand that produces chewing gums. This product was launched in 1984 as Wrigley Company’s first ever sugar-free product. As per the company website, the various materials that are used to make extra gum are: 

  • Sorbitol 
  • Gum base
  • Glycerol 
  • Natural flavours
  • Artificial flavours 
  • Aspartame 
  • Colours 
  • Hydrogenated Starch Hydrolysate 
  • Mannitol 
  • Soy lecithin 
  • Acesulfame

It is estimated that the global gum market stands at a staggering 32 billion dollars. This implies that massive amounts of gum are produced worldwide and therefore it is very important to know whether chewing gums are safe for the environment or not. 

In 2019, Wrigley’s extra gum was the most successful gum in the United States getting total sales of more than 500 million dollars. 

What is biodegradable?

A material is termed biodegradable when it has the capacity to be broken down in nature into simpler substances so that it can become a part of nature again. 

Biodegradability is the process through which complex substances are broken down into simpler substances by the action of microbes and decomposers. 

It is nature’s own way to deal with waste so that it is ensured that waste does not cause any harm to the environment and life in general. 

Concerning biodegradability, the general rule of thumb is that naturally occurring substances such as plant-based and animal-based products are biodegradable because their structure is compatible with the microbes’ ability to break down. 

However, man-made substances such as plastics or resins are not biodegradable because their structures do not gel well with the microbes’ ability to break them down. 

With the recent technological advances and a greater need and want to be sustainable, numerous efforts have been done to make sure that the rift between biodegradability and eco-friendliness is minimised because otherwise, there simply is no way out. 

Why should gum be biodegradable?

It is a matter of piqued curiosity what is the need for chewing gums to be biodegradable? We have already discussed what biodegradability is and also have introduced ourselves to the basic chemistry behind chewing gums. 

It is known that many people in the world are associated with the consumption of chewing gums. As per a national survey, more than 50% of the population is associated with the consumption of chewing gum in the US. 

The statistics for the case of the UK are further staggering. As per research and surveys, more than 28 million people in the UK consume chewing gums every year. As a result, 935 million packs of chewing gum are produced to meet the needs of UK chewing gum consumption alone. 

Now imagine, even in the case of the UK, 935 million packs of chewing gums are not degraded and they persist in the environment. The impacts and results are far beyond catastrophic let alone reversible. 

The current world population stands at roughly 8 billion and is projected to rise to more than 11 billion in the coming century. The Earth is already being put to test by such a large population. 

In this scenario, if more waste is generated and on top of that, that waste is not biodegradable, the situation will get out of control leaving humanity devastated. 

Therefore, it is important that materials consumed and produced must be biodegradable because otherwise great strain will be caused on the environment and its implications will also affect life as well. 

To further assert this, let us take an example of plastics. Plastics are non-biodegradable substances that may persist in the environment for more than 400 years. While they persist, they cause various health-related and environment-related risks. 

These may include loss of life, pollution, degradation of land, habitat destruction, and medical anomalies including cancer, neurological impairment, and skin and eye diseases– to name a few. 

What is the relation between extra gum & human health?

You might wonder that although many people consume extra chewing gum, is it really harmful? We all know that people consume all sorts of consumer products and not all of them are beneficial to human health.

So, let’s ask what is the relation between extra gum and human health?

The relation of chewing gum to human health can be explained through two frames. One is physical health and the other is mental health. 

The relation of extra chewing gum to physical health imply that extra gum should contain no such ingredients that are harmful to the overall functioning and metabolism of human biology and the body.

The relation of extra gum to psychological health or in other words mental health is that what are the effects of extra chewing gum on how our mind works and what is the impact of extra chewing gum on our mood. 

What are the mental effects of extra chewing gum?

As per research, it is claimed that the effects of extra chewing gum are quite positive and direct on our mental health. 

Chewing gums are known to reduce stress, anxiety and proclivity to depression. That is why chewing gums are overall linked to mood improvement.

Some studies have also found that by chewing gum your inclination to be angry is reduced many times. People who often get angry are advised to chew gum often. 

Chewing gums are also known to improve memory, however, the exact science behind this claim is unknown to date. 

Chewing gums are linked to reducing cortisol levels which is a stress hormone. 

To date, a plethora of studies have been conducted wherein a negative relation was achieved between stress and anxiety and chewing gums. 

What are the physical effects of extra chewing gum?

Extra chewing gum or chewing gum, in general, are said to have mixed effects on physical or medical health. 

It is researched that the consumption of extra chewing gum is linked with weight loss. There are two primary reasons behind this. One is that chewing gum itself is an activity which is linked with the burning of calories. 

Secondly, by chewing gum, you can actually reduce your appetite because you can trick your brain that you are eating while in reality, you are only chewing gum. 

However, in order to reap these benefits, it is important to prefer a sugar-free gum such as extra chewing gum, otherwise, the presence of sugar will undo the said effects. 

Chewing gum (sugar-free in particular) is also linked to improved teeth health. Extra chewing gum can protect your teeth from various problems like cavities et cetera. 

However, as said, there are also some negative effects of chewing gum on our health which are laid out in the literature. 

As per some studies, the consumption of chewing gum can lead to many problems such as indigestion, jaw problems, affected metabolism, and headaches. 

Chewing too much gum can affect your jaw because we all know that balance is the key. If you fail to maintain this key, chances are that your health will be at stake. 

Extra chewing gum contains laxatives and overconsumption of these laxatives would lead to digestive complications and even diarrhoea. 

Chewing gum is also linked to the occurrence of headaches in people that are more sensitive and prone to headaches. 

However, extra chewing gum is sugar-free but sugar-sweetened chewing gums are also linked to bad effects on dental and metabolic functioning. 

Is extra gum biodegradable?

Let’s move to the main question which is whether extra gum is biodegradable or not. The answer unfortunately is no. Extra gum is not biodegradable. 

Extra gum like other sugar-free gums commercially available contains hydrophobic polymers and polymers as we all know are plastics. 

Therefore, extra gum has the capacity to persist in the environment for many hundred years while causing harm to life and the environment. 

Is extra gum recyclable? 

Since it is established that chewing gum like extra chewing gum is not biodegradable, the next question that you might wonder is whether extra gum is recyclable or not. 

Fortunately, there is some good news here. Extra chewing gum like other available chewing gums is recyclable and can be made into any rubber and plastic item. 

This means that the right disposal of extra chewing gum can save the environment from a lot of stress and a lot of litter, too. This all depends on the degree of environmental awareness found in the consumers. 

Conclusion

It is concluded that extra chewing gum is not biodegradable because it contains hydrophobic polymers that are plastics. Therefore, extra chewing gum may persist in the environment for hundreds of years. 

It is also concluded that despite being non-biodegradable, extra chewing is recyclable and can be made into almost any rubber or plastic material.

Various health benefits and risks associated with extra chewing gum were also discussed. 

Frequently Asked Question: Is extra gum biodegradable?

Like extra, are all chewing gums non-biodegradable?

No, there are some gums that do not contain plastics and hence actually are biodegradable. Examples of such gum include Simply gum’s gum, Natural Mayan chewing gum and post-chew wraps. 

How long would extra chewing gum take to degrade?

Because it contains plastic, it may take many hundred years to degrade. The exact amount of years is unknown. 

What are some controversial ingredients found in gums?

These may include Aspartame, Titanium Dioxide, Laxatives, and Butylated hydroxytoluene. 

References

  • Konar, N., Palabiyik, I., Toker, O. S., & Sagdic, O. (2016). Chewing gum: Production, quality parameters and opportunities for delivering bioactive compounds. Trends in Food Science & Technology, 55, 29-38.
  • Satari, L., Guillén, A., Vidal-Verdú, À., & Porcar, M. (2020). The wasted chewing gum bacteriome. Scientific reports, 10(1), 1-10.

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