There’s a lot to chew over when it comes to gum. Here’s a fact: three out of four people worldwide don’t realise their chewing gum is made from plastic. If you already know this, congratulations on being one out of four.
We chew gum when we’re bored, want to freshen our breath or enjoy the small satisfaction of blowing a bubble. People have been chewing on the stuff for thousands of years: one of the earliest human groups in Europe chewed on a birch bark tar, while Mayans chewed on chicle – an extract from the sapodilla tree.
However, by the early 1940s, chicle was replaced by synthetic rubbers and plastics. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) allows synthetic and natural substances to be labelled as “gum base”. It can include materials such as petroleum wax, butadiene-styrene, polyethylene, and polyvinyl acetate – the same materials used in single-use plastic bags, toys, and glue.
Fortunately, plastic-free chewing gum alternatives are available, made from natural, compostable and biodegradable ingredients, and we’re sharing some of the most popular brands with you today.
Seven plastic-free chewing gum brands to try
The American company was established in 2014 after its founder, Caron Proschan, discovered that regular chewing gum was made of a synthetic plastic base. She then began making batches of gum in her apartment using tree sap (Chicle) and sold the first products in New York City.
As the company continues to grow, it claims it will continue to commit to using good ingredients and sustainable packaging.
Ingredients: Organic raw cane sugar, natural Chicle base (Chicle, candelilla wax, citric acid), natural peppermint oil, organic vegetable glycerin, organic rice flour.
Seeking to go back to “natural roots”, the company studied ancient Mayan traditions and chose to use chewing gum with Chicle tree sap.
The Italian company says its Chicle is sustainably harvested locally by Consorcio Chiclero, a native community that has been harvesting Chicozapote trees for over 300 years.
Ingredients: Organic evaporated cane juice, organic gum base (100-per-cent chicle), organic glucose, organic agave syrup, organic flavour.
Founder Malak Ben Hmeda said he was horrified when he discovered chewing gum was made of plastic and became fixated on creating a sustainable alternative for gums. He then quit his job in luxury fashion recruitment and launched Oh My Gum.
The company’s chewing gum range is made from 100 per cent plant-based ingredients, is sugar-free, vegan-friendly, uses sustainable packaging, and uses tooth-friendly xylitol as a sweetener.
Ingredients: Xylitol (natural sweetener), natural Chicle gum base, natural flavour (mint), glycerol, magnesium stearate, gum arabic, carnauba wax.
UK-based Chewsy Gum uses naturally plant-based, vegan, and biodegradable ingredients. In addition, it is sugar-free and sweetened with xylitol to support dental health.
The brand’s gum uses plastic-free gum made from Chicle which makes “every chew better for the planet”.
Ingredients: Xylitol, Chicle (natural gum base), gum arabic, natural flavour, sunflower lecithin (emulsifier), carnauba wax (natural coating).
Melbourne-based Honest Gum was launched in 2014 when founder Marie Pallas says she found out that there was no natural chewing gum available on the Australian market.
The gum is made using sap from the Mexican sapodilla tree and contains no artificial flavours, colours, or preservatives. In addition, the product – including its packaging – is 100 per cent compostable.
Ingredients: Xylitol, Chicle (natural gum base), natural flavours, glycerol (humectant), Arabic gum (thickener), magnesium stearate (anti-caking agent), carnauba wax (coating).
The Humble Co is a UK-based company offering an assortment of products, from sustainable toothbrushes to cotton swabs to plant-based chewing gums.
The company says its gum is made from 100 per cent natural ingredients, vegan, dentist-approved, and wrapped in compostable packaging.
Ingredients: Xylitol, natural gum base, natural lemon flavour, natural flavours, concentrated lemon juice, humectant (glycerol), anticaking agent (magnesium stearate), thickening agent (Arabic gum), coating agent (carnauba wax).
Made from Chicle and Arabic gum from Sapodilla and Acacia trees, the natural chewing gum by Georganics is flavoured with natural peppermint and sweetened with sugar-free Xylitol.
According to the company, its gum range helps freshen breath while removing food particles and bacteria that cause tooth decay. (Note: This is not meant to replace brushing your teeth and visiting your dentist.)
Ingredients: Xylitol, gum base (Chicle and Arabic), calcium carbonate, flavouring, lecithin.
Chew on this
Although not recommended, doctors say you have little to worry about if you accidentally swallow a piece of gum. The body cannot digest gum, which will pass through the digestive system. However, even if it passes in our stool, it eventually turns into non-biodegradable waste, so it is best to support good ol’ natural plastic-free chewing gums.