The answer to this is a NO and YES!
Chewing gum is basically made up of a gum base, softeners, sweeteners, colorings and flavorings and preservatives. The gum base is what makes the chewing gum chewable. And it is this ingredient that kind of makes it non-biodegradable. The modern chewing gum is mainly made up of a gum base. The gum base is made from natural or synthetic polymers.
More on gum base in chewing gums
Chewing gums have been around for at least 100,000 years. The early chewing gums used chicle, a natural tree gum. The Aztecs and Mayans used chicle. It is a sap of the sapodilla tree, which is an evergreen tree found in southern Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean.
By the 1960’s, most of the commercial chewing gums were made using synthetic polymers for the gum base. Chewing gum does not disintegrate easily because of these polymers/plastics gum base. When synthetic rubber was made, it became a substitute for most natural rubber in chewing gums. The gum base is mostly a combination of artificial and natural bases.
The other ingredients:
To make the chewing gum tasty and last for some time, many ingredients are added to the gum base. The sweeteners are added to give sweetness to the gum. Otherwise, it is like chewing a pair of rubber bands!
The softeners are added to render more softness to the gum, by retaining the moisture. These prevent the chewing gum in hardening.
Flavouring ingredients add that special flavor.
Preservatives are used to maintain the freshness.
A chewing gum is stretchy and retains its properties indefinitely under all weather conditions. It has strong adhesion and is resistant to chemicals
A chewing gum is biodegradable, but it takes many years to disintegrate completely. All other ingredients are biodegradable completely, except the gum base. The gum base takes really long time to break down depending on several conditions. If the gum hardens it becomes all the more difficult.
A chewing gum is not digestible. There is no chewing gum without the gum base, which makes it elastic and rubberised. And hence cannot be broken into pieces. The sweeteners and flavoring are all digestible whereas the gum base is expelled out of the body.
The growing problem
In terms of litter, chewing gum is second only to cigarette butts in the world. Lack of awareness and improper disposal of the gum accounts for the major cause. It certainly presents an environmental issue if not tackled properly.
Did you that Singapore has banned chewing gum in the country? There is a hefty fine for spitting gum on the streets.
Lee Kuan Yew, Singapore’s first Prime Minister is a man who turned Singapore into a global trading hub. He personified the country’s ban on chewing gum. The country also has many laws relating to graffiti, litter, spitting, jaywalking etc.
Thanks to Lee, Singapore is a clean country!