You may have heard our Lizzie on the Radio this morning chatting to the BBC about plastic in chewing gum. From the very start of our business this issue has been on our minds however it remains a challenge. For anyone who is interested in this issue we wanted to give you an update on what we are trying to do.
Since 2014 our gum base has been made of a mix of natural and synthetic rubbers. It is the synthetic part which is like a plastic. It is nice and chewy, completely safe, makes a great gum base however it is the plastic bit which is cause for concern.
A chewy gum base which has some plastic in it has a few issues, the most obvious is that when gum is discarded irresponsibly (i.e. not in a bin), it sticks to the ground making a pretty disgusting mess. The other issue is while the amount of plastic in the gum base is small, even when disposed of in a considerate way, it will still take a long time to decompose.
The possible solutions
Plastic Free Gum Base
Our original solution was to use a 100% natural gum base which had no plastic in it. This was great in theory but in reality, it did not make a great chewing gum. It was not a nice chew, often got messy and did a poor job of holding flavour.
We also had lots of sourcing issues which meant that we could not carry on with this ingredient even if we thought the end product was up to scratch. We have always been transparent about our challenges and if you want a reminder of why we had to make the switch to a more conventional gum base click here.
We have never stopped looking for a natural alternative but have yet to come up with one. We salute those companies that are on a mission to use an all natural gum base, but like we did they still run into problems with quality and flavour. We would love to think we can achieve the holy grail of having a gum with a great tasting, robust chew made from all natural ingredients soon but until then there is a trade-off to be made.
There has been a lot of industry research into coming up with a biodegradable gum however again the real challenge has been to come up with something which tasted good and gave a good chewing experience. In 2010 a Bristol based company Revolymer spent over £10M coming up with a biodegradable gum called Rev 7 (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rev7_Gum) which they launched in the US and UK to big fan fare. Despite all their good intentions and investment they product did not sell and was later re-incarnated into a nicotine gum.
Turning used gum base into something useful
When we first set up Peppersmith, it was great to meet Anna Bullus and her ideas for turning used gum into something useful (like the soles of these shoes below). It is great to see Anna back in the news this month still crusading to make use of old gum and having fun in the process. If there were more people like Anna around maybe we would not have a problem. Click here to see more about Anna’s mission.
No more chewing gum
If we can’t crack some of the challenges above, a lot of people may ask whether the best thing is to give up on gum all together? Aside from the fact that lots of people really love to chew gum we could never advocate this due to the health benefits derived from chewing gum.
Just as your old toothpaste tube needs to be thrown away, so does your gum. Both products are an important part of looking after yourself and your teeth, we just need to take care to dispose or recycle them in the right way.
We agree that plastic in gum is an issue and we will continue to work away in the background to try and find alternatives.
We hate gum litter just as much as you do and would support any initiatives with government and local authorities to curb anti-social gum litter.
For the moment we believe the benefits of chewing gum far outweigh the negatives but understand it’s a trade-off.
As a last thought, if we still have not convinced you gum should remain a part of your life, please don’t forget about our mints. No plastic, just fantastic.
If you have any thoughts our ideas on this issue we would love to hear from your by writing a comment below or emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org.