How Long Does it Take for Chewing Gum to Decompose?

By Rebecca Gummere

Each year millions of people consume billions of pieces of chewing gum. Made with a base of non-biodegradable materials (natural or synthetic latex, rubber or wax), discarded gum has become a sticky problem on city streets, sidewalks and in landfills.

The Cost

In the United Kingdom, estimates run as high as 400 million pounds ($600 million) a year to clean up discarded gum. According to the experts at Chewing Gum Bins, "Chewing gum is a growing problem in the local environment because it is not biodegradable and it is notoriously difficult to clean up."

Paying Up

In recent years, several cities in the U.K. sought to tax chewing gum for extra funding for gum waste removal. Chewing gum manufacturers such as Wrigley mounted a countercampaign, squashing the effort.

Chew on This

In Great Britain, local authorities slap fines of up to 80 pounds ($130) on people caught throwing gum on the street or sidewalk, with court penalties as high as 2,500 pounds ($4,000). New efforts to develop feasible recycling methods are beginning to pay off, though.

Palatable Solutions

Recycled gum is used in drainage systems under soccer fields and in athletic running tracks. A British design student has invented a process that turns chewed gum into a molding plastic. Used gum is collected in containers called Gum Drops and recycled into new Gum Drops containers, helping keep city streets cleaner.

Green Your Gum

Newly developed Chicza Rainforest Gum loses its stickiness when discarded and turns to powder within six weeks, making it the world’s first biodegradable chewing gum. Currently available only in the U.K., a pack of 12 pieces sells for 1.40 pounds ($2). A company spokesman says they hope to bring Chicza to the United States by the fall of 2010.

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