Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Help Support EcoWatch

British Designer Gives Second Life to Chewing Gum

Business

Anyone who has ever stepped on gum or felt a sticky glob on the underside of tables knows chewed gum can be a pest.

But did you know that chewing gum is also a problem for the environment? Although it was once made of natural substances, modern gum is made from synthetic, petroleum-based polymers called polyisobutylene, which is the same rubbery material you'd find inside car tires. This means most gum sold today is non-biodegradable.


Sure, there are bigger planetary foes than chewing gum, but one 1999 review found that the world market for chewing gum is estimated to be 560,000 tons per year, so it adds up. If gum is not disposed properly, it either accumulates in the environment, inadvertently ends up in the stomachs of animals, or local governments have to spend a lot of money scraping it off sidewalks and other surfaces. Chewing gum happens to be the second most common form of street litter after cigarette butts.

You can always switch to biodegradable varieties, mints, or practice better dental hygiene if you want fresh breath. But as the BBC recently highlighted, one designer has another brilliant solution to the pervasive problem.

For the past decade, Anna Bullus has headed UK-based Gumdrop, the first company in the world to recycle chewing gum by turning it into a moldable material that can be used in a variety of rubber and plastic products, including cups, guitar picks, and even 100 percent recyclable rain boots.

"When you are handling the finished product, you do take a while to adjust to the fact that this has been in somebody's mouth previously," Brett Nixon, the manager at a plastic molding specialist in Leicester that works with Gumdrop, told the BBC.

"But once you get over that fear it's easy. By recycling it and giving it another lease of life it's helping the environment, it's an absolutely fantastic idea."

The company's main product is the Gumdrop Bin, a bright pink bin designed specifically for the disposal of chewed gum. The bin is made from recycled gum, of course.

Gumdrop Bins have been installed in several universities, train stations, shopping centers and airports around the UK. According to the BBC, after a three-month trial of Gumdrop's disposal program, London's Heathrow Airport saw a "noticeable improvement" and saved £6,000 ($8,300) in cleaning costs.

As Bullus said, "I do believe that through the right design you can actually change the way people behave."

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

A protest against the name of the Washington Redskins in Minneapolis, Minnesota on Nov. 2, 2014. Fibonacci Blue / CC BY 2.0

The Washington Redskins will retire their controversial name and logo, the National Football League (NFL) team announced Monday.

Read More Show Less
The survival tools northern fish have used for millennia could be a disadvantage as environmental conditions warm and more fast-paced species move in. Istvan Banyai / Wikimedia Commons / CC by 3.0

By Alyssa Murdoch, Chrystal Mantyka-Pringle and Sapna Sharma

Summer has finally arrived in the northern reaches of Canada and Alaska, liberating hundreds of thousands of northern stream fish from their wintering habitats.

Read More Show Less
A mother walks her children through a fountain on a warm summer day on July 12, 2020 in Hoboken, New Jersey. Gary Hershorn / Getty Images

A heat wave that set in over the South and Southwest left much of the U.S. blanketed in record-breaking triple digit temperatures over the weekend. The widespread and intense heat wave will last for weeks, making the magnitude and duration of its heat impressive, according to The Washington Post.

Read More Show Less
If you get a call from a number you don't recognize, don't hit decline — it might be a contact tracer calling to let you know that someone you've been near has tested positive for the coronavirus. blackCAT / Getty Images

By Joni Sweet

If you get a call from a number you don't recognize, don't hit decline — it might be a contact tracer calling to let you know that someone you've been near has tested positive for the coronavirus.

Read More Show Less
Aerial view of burnt areas of the Amazon rainforest, near Porto Velho, Rondonia state, Brazil, on Aug. 24, 2019. CARLOS FABAL / AFP via Getty Images

NASA scientists say that warmer than average surface sea temperatures in the North Atlantic raise the concern for a more active hurricane season, as well as for wildfires in the Amazon thousands of miles away, according to Newsweek.

Read More Show Less
A baby receives limited treatment at a hospital in Yemen on June 27, 2020. Mohammed Hamoud / Anadolu Agency / Getty Images

By Andrea Germanos

Oxfam International warned Thursday that up to 12,000 people could die each day by the end of the year as a result of hunger linked to the coronavirus pandemic—a daily death toll surpassing the daily mortality rate from Covid-19 itself.

Read More Show Less

Trending

The 2006 oil spill was the largest incident in Philippine history and damaged 1,600 acres of mangrove forests. Shubert Ciencia / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

By Jun N. Aguirre

An oil spill on July 3 threatens a mangrove forest on the Philippine island of Guimaras, an area only just recovering from the country's largest spill in 2006.

Read More Show Less