The blog formerly known as   Fake Plastic Fish

January 15, 2010

Chewing on Plastic? Yum!

I’m not a big gum chewer. I can keep a stick of gum in my mouth for about five minutes, just enough time to suck all the flavor out, before I’m tired of chewing and starting to get that chewing gum headache.

So it was no hardship to let go of chewing gum when I gave up products in plastic packaging.

plastic in chewing gum

Still, if someone offered me a piece of gum, I might have accepted the random chew here and there. Yeah, I knew it contained artificial flavors and wasn’t good for me. And I always felt guilty if it came in one of these:

But after reading some information that reader Eleanor Sommer forwarded me yesterday, I won’t be putting any of that stuff in my mouth anymore.

Gum is made from plastic.

According to Chemistry.About.com, chewing gum was originally made from tree sap called chicle, a natural rubber, and sometimes various waxes.  But…

After World War II, chemists learned to make synthetic rubber, which came to replace most natural rubber in chewing gum (e.g., polyethylene and polyvinyl acetate). The last U.S. manufacturer to use chicle is Glee Gum.

Polyvinyl acetate? What’s that? According to the article “Behind the Label: Chewing Gum” published this week in The Ecologist, polyvinyl acetate (a type of plastic) is manufactured using vinyl acetate, a chemical shown to cause tumors in lab rats. In fact, in 2008 the Canadian government was so concerned about vinyl acetate used in the production of chewing gum that they added it to a list of substances to be considered toxic. However, according to the article, government regulators were forced to back down due to industry pressure.

But is all chewing gum made from polyvinyl acetate? If the label lists “gum base” as an ingredient, it may contain “petroleum, lanolin, glycerin, polyethylene, polyvinyl acetate, petroleum wax, stearic acid, or latex,” according to the Vegetarian Resource Group.  In fact, check out the US FDA’s complete list of possible ingredients that can be included in gum base:  http://www.accessdata.fda.gov/scripts/cdrh/cfdocs/cfcfr/CFRSearch.cfm?fr=172.615

The trouble is that we as consumers have no way of knowing which of these ingredients, if any, are included in a particular gum base because manufacturers are not required to go into any more detail!

And a few more points to ponder before I move on…

1) Where does (plastic) chewing gum go after it’s ABC (already been chewed)?  Is it flushed down toilets?  Washed down storm drains? Hmm… just one more source of non-biodegradable plastic in our oceans?

2) What happens when we swallow it?  Does it eventually make its way out?  Or do all of us have plastic in our stomachs?  Just wondering…

Natural chewing gum

So, does chewing gum without plastic exist?

02/25/2017 UPDATE:  At the time this article was originally written in January of 2010, there were no completely plastic-free chewing gum choices.  Since then, a few have come on the market.  But whether or not they catch on is another story.  I will continue to update this page as new information becomes available.

Peppersmith:  In 2012, I discovered this English brand of chewing gum (with both plastic-free packaging and plastic-free ingredients) and touted it heavily.  Sadly, in 2014, the company reformulated the chewing gum to include plastic in its gum base, so I can no longer recommend it.  Read more about Peppersmith chewing gum here.

Simply Gum:  In 2014, I learned of Simply Gum.  It is still on the market with plastic-free gum base and packaging.  The only downside is that all of the Simply Gum flavors are sweetened with sugar, which many gum chewers are trying to avoid.  Read more about Simply Gum here.

Green Tree Gum Co:  In 2015, I reviewed plastic-free, sugar-free Green Tree gum.  Since then, the company has gone out of business and the website has been taken down.  You can read my original review of Green Tree chewing gum here.

Spry Gum: Many readers have mentioned Spry gum to me because the gum base is reported to be all natural.  So I emailed the company a few days after this post was published and received the following response, “We currently use a gum base that is derived from the sap of jelutong trees in Southeast Asia.  We have found this source to be better than the synthetic one derived from petroleum by-products since it does not stick to dental work.” That’s great, but I have not reviewed or recommended Spry because the packaging and containers are all made from plastic.

Xylichew:  Readers have also mentioned Xylichew, but like Spry, it only comes in a plastic bottle or a plastic blister pack, so I don’t plan to review or recommend it.

Peelu:  Contains synthetic chemicals.  According to account specialist Phillip Ellingson, the gum base “is very similar to any gum base you would find in any gum.  There are plasticizers and elasticizers, which give the gum the chewy consistency, but you do not swallow those ingredients.  The gum base specifically for our gums is not all natural, but the ingredients you ingest are. The Peelu dental gum is latex and petroleum free.”  [05/21/2012 Update: In a follow-up email, Phillip confirms that the gum base does contain polyvinyl acetate.]

Chicza: A certified organic natural brand whose gum base is made with 100% chicle.  However, it does contain sugar.  At the time I originally wrote this post, it was not available in the U.S. It’s now available in the United States, as well as Mexico, Germany, Italy, and the United Kingdom.  It’s also available on Amazon.  As for the packaging, according to the Amazon seller, “Picture a chocolate bar- there are 8 squares of gum, but all one piece (you sort of break off each piece you want to chew) and that one piece of 8 is in plastic packaging.”

Glee Gum:  As of the original writing of this post, Glee Gum was touted as being made with natural chicle; however, the company also included plastics in its gum base.  (See my original write up of Glee Gum below.)  Since then, Glee has reformulated both its sugared and sugar-free gums to be completely plastic-free!  Read about all new plastic-free Glee Gum here.

History of Glee Gum’s gum base

What follows is my original posting about plastic in Glee Gum.  I’m leaving it here for historical archive purposes. Click the link above to read my review of the new, plastic-free version. 

According to the About.com article, Glee Gum still uses natural chicle in its gum base. So I investigated the Glee Gum website, and I found this description of the product’s gum base:

What is in your gum base?
Our gum base is a mix of chicle (see above), natural gums, rubbers, resins, and waxes. The exact formula is (unfortunately!) confidential. It is safe to chew, but, like all chewing gum, we don’t recommend that you swallow!

What exactly are the resins in Glee Gum? From the description above, I can’t tell whether the gum base contains plastic and/or petroleum-based wax or not.  The site does tout the omission of artificial flavors, sweeteners, colors, and preservatives, which is awesome. But is the gum base completely natural?

I recalled that when my nieces were young, I bought them a “Make Your Own Rainforest Chewing Gum” kit that contained natural chicle as its base. Googling the product now, I see that it is also made by the Glee Gum company, and includes the same gum base as their chewing gums. So I still don’t know what else is in it.

I called and left a message for  Glee Gum. I have not heard back yet, but I’ll be sure and post an update here when I get an answer.

UPDATE: I just spoke with Deborah Schimberg from Glee Gum.  In fact, Glee’s gum base DOES contain polyvinyl acetate in addition to chicle.  They are working on developing an all natural gum base with no synthetics.  But at this point, she says, all gum manufacturers use synthetics in their gum base.  And in fact, there are only a handful of gum base providers, and they won’t even provide complete information to the chewing gum manufacturers about ingredients.

Deborah is hoping to release the new gum base in 2010, but she has several concerns to deal with.  Natural rubber, for example, could be an allergen for people with latex allergies.  And there are concerns about other possible ingredients.  But she said she’d let me know first thing when the new gum base is ready.

Deborah also told me about an English woman who wants to collect our already chewed gum and make gum drop bins out of it for collecting even more chewed gum.  Please check out Gumdrop Ltd.

Regardless, the point is that until manufacturers are required to list all of the ingredients in their products, rather than using non-specific terms like “gum base,” “natural flavors,” or “fragrance,” or similarly, until they are required to list the ingredients in their plastic packaging, we can’t know for sure what substances we’re putting into our bodies and whether or not they’re truly safe.

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73 Comments on "Chewing on Plastic? Yum!"

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Hi Beth,

What do you look for in a natural chewing gum? Would love to hear your suggestion on this. I found this https://www.simplygum.com/#6ingredients as I am deciding to either quit on gum or stick to single brand that is free from aspartame and synthetics.

Six years after you wrote this blog, I found it while searching for natural gum base. I also found the Glee web site, and they’re now using an all natural gum base. This is what they say: After years of research, we’re so excited to debut our new gum base recipe. It’s 100% natural, made predominantly of chicle with just three additional, natural ingredients: calcium carbonate, candelilla wax, and a pinch of dehydrated citrus peels. We are transitioning all of our Glee Gum flavors to this new gum base. (You can find the new gum base in our Glee Gum… Read more »

The Peelu Co. Chewing Gum doesn’t contain any plastics.

Very interesting, thanks, Beth.

On another subject, I was considering indulging in hair spray a while ago until I read the label. It contains methyl methacrylate, otherwise known as acrylic! Yup, it’s plastic. i don’t fancy that on my hair or skin or in eyes, nose & throat, so it went back on the supermarket shelf. Always pays to read the label!

Check out Simply Gum!!!

Beth Terry Lnm I agree about Spry’s packaging and hope they will replace those canisters w/cardboard soon. I’ll email and ask them to. Perhaps if we all do? In the meantime, at least the canisters can be re-purposed.

What about Zellies gum? I know they are stored in a plastic container, but has anyone searched their ingredients? Gum help my child with sensory processing disorder to focus. However, I certainly don’t want her consuming toxins!

sybren Thank you for finding this! Great information to have on hand. And stated very clearly in the text that manufacturers do not disclose their proprietary recipes.

chewing gum base is made of :
Elastomers, Resins, Plasticizers, Paraffin waxes and micro, Vegetable oils, Excipients ,
Filler, Emulsifiers, Sweeteners, Flavors, Other ingredients, Dyes, Antioxidants, Glycerol, Polishes,
and every manufacturer has his own special “recipe”
Source a pdf in dutch ( just run it through google translator), very detailed
Chewing gum, The Chemical Facts
by Martine ir Segers,
http://www.chemischefeitelijkheden.nl/Uploads/Magazines/CF-202-kauwgom.pdf

Plastics are polymers. Its not like your chewing on a grocery bag. Polymers – natural and synthetic, both of which are considered “plastics” – are in everything so you better stop eating a whole lot of other things too if your going to stop chewing gum.

Jack, by your logic, it’s okay to eat cyanide because cyanide is a chemical and chemicals are in everything.
Sure, there are both natural and synthetic polymers. Most chewing gum is made from synthetic polymers with undisclosed ingredients. I’m not going to put it in my mouth. What you choose to do is your business.

Your reply makes no sense. Cyanide is CN-, not a polymer. No point in my statement did i say that you should eat poison. I was just informing you that polymers are in a lot more things then just chewing gum.

Hi. Sorry if there was a misunderstanding. Actually, the FDA does not require those ingredients to be disclosed to the public. Gum manufacturers can just call it “gum base” and do not have to tell us what ingredients are in it. And there are quite a few questionable chemicals that are allowed in food contact plastics. BPA, for example.

Beth Terry We must have had a misunderstanding. I did not mean to imply that you should chew gum made from synthetic polymers. I just wanted to state a fact that polymers are used in a lot more things than gum. And yes, some polymers are toxic i understand that, but a lot of the synthetic polymers in gum are not. If they were, they would not be able to sell them. One point that you brought up is that manufacturers are not required to disclose additives in gums? I was pretty sure the FDA required this. If i am… Read more »

The other point to consider is biodegradability

I was using an extreme example to point out the flaw in your logic. Your premise seems to be that since polymers are in other things I eat, it’s okay to chew gum made from synthetic polymers. But just as some chemicals are toxic, some polymers are toxic. And manufacturers are not required to disclose the additives, of which there could be any of several thousand, in synthetic plastics.

found this on making natural gum base from chisle , beewax aand vegetable oil
https://ourpastimes.com/make-gum-base-4487693.html

sybren That’s cool. I know I can get beeswax in bulk without plastic. I wonder how chicle is sold.

From the makers of Spry Gum 3/4/13-
Hello Lena,
Thank you for your interest in Xlear Inc. and our Spry gum. Our gum base is not from a synthetic material. Our gum base is natural sourced from a plant it is from the Jelutong Tree. If you have any other questions you can visit our website at http://www.xlear.com or give us a call at 877-599-5327. Have a great week!

@Lnm The problem with Spry is the packaging, which is all plastic. I want to find all natural gum in plastic-free packaging available in the U.S.

I agree. I dislike the blister packs as well

March 12, 2013
Hi Lena,
Thanks for your continued interest! Our gum base is unfortunately NOT yet 100% natural. We hope to offer new and improved, 100% natural gum base later this year. We can email you a notification as soon as we have it. (We will also want to shout it to the world!). In the meantime, all the digestible parts of Glee Gum continue to be all-natural- the sugar, the flavors, the coloring, etc. Thanks again for asking.
Yours in Glee,
Molly
Molly Lederer
Verve, inc. ~ 305 Dudley St. ~ Providence, RI 02907
p: 401-351-6415 ~ f: 401-272-1204

This is fantastic news! Yes, yes please email me when the all natural gum is available. I would love to review it. beth [at] myplasticfreelife [dot] com. Right now, I have only found this gum which comes in a cardboard box and doesn’t contain plastic in the gum, but it’s only sold in England. https://myplasticfreelife.com/2012/05/peppersmith-makes-chewing-gum-without-plastic/

Oops. Should have read more closely. I thought this comment was left by someone at Glee… didn’t realize you were copying an email they sent to you. Okay, I will contact them about the new formula.

And will it comes in a cardboard box without plastic packaging?

Ooops, I meant March 1, 2013

Im so glad my friend shared your page with me. I have recently watched the movie “Bag It” and it opened my eyes up wide to how disgusting and horrible plastic is. I have been going nuts getting rid of plastic from my life wherever possible. I’ve also watched a few other very informative and eye opening documentaries like “the inconvenient truth”, “food inc”, “the future of food”, “no impact man”, “the cove” and “sharkwater”… I am never buying meat ever again, I am doing my very best to buy local and organic from now on and am not going… Read more »

You don’t have to *not* buy meat because of factory farms and CAFOs–there are alternatives! It’s called pasture-raised. Do some research and look for local farms. You may be surprised by what’s around you that you never knew was there. ;)

Here’s an example of what I mean: http://www.polyfacefarms.com/

This is disconcerning… I never used to be a big chewing gum consumer, until I got medicines that totally dried out my all saliva. Now chewing gum is the only thing that keeps my mouth bearable, artificial saliva and other gels just dont last for more than 3 seconds. :( I have tried the all natural gums, but they just don’t last. But I may reconsider my choices, it is bad enough that I have to take this medicine that has so many severe side effects on my body (wish it was only the saliva….) but I should not be… Read more »

Try eating fresh honeycomb. The honey is delicious and the wax that is left over is very similar to chewing gum (if a bit more crumbly). You can often find it at specialty stores and co-ops.

Oh, God. I so want to not have toxins in my body. And here I was chewing gum to keep me occupied. What now? Is there no end to this poisonous commercial world we live in?

I had a teacher tell my class that swallowing gum was safe because our stomach acid could still digest it. What I’m guessing he didn’t know is that we would be swallowing plastic. Yikes!

My local spice shop carries mastic (resin from a pistachio tree in Chio, Greece) in a stainless steel container. (The resin is wrapped in plastic… but it’s probably the next best thing to not chewing gum)

Another great random pick from the archive in my twitter feed today!

Of course, this one worries me a lot because I have been a big gum chewer for years. I thought it was chicle, not plastic. Now I am going to have to rethink my whole stance on gum.

Thanks for the info Beth

I have been a gum chewer for many years until I learned about plastic being in gum. I called the Wrigley Corporation today and asked about plastic being in there product. The person I spoke to did not know anything about this and defended the product to no end. Also, I was told in so many words that I must be crazy and that he never heard this aligation before – I quickly spoke-up and stated it’s all over the internet look it up. I am all about change especially after the fact of having breast cancer, I want to… Read more »

Did you get any update from them in 2010 on the natural gum? I’ve never been a gum chewer – I prefer vegan caramels. *nom nom nom nom*

Brenna @ Almost All The Truth

I had no idea, I am so disappointed! I was letting my 5 year old chew the Spry gum because his dentist recommended the xylitol and I thought it was natural based on ingredients, just didn’t realize about the gum base. The gum keeps him from sucking his thumb. :( Guess I will just have to wait and see if Glee can make their gum without the plastics.

WOW…I talk alot at work (hairstylist) and have always chewed gum..My mouth gets dry from talking so it has become what I do. Last year I started thinking about how I try to be so health, yet what about all the chemicals in the gum I chew? That made me nervous so I cut waaaay down. With all the talking though, again, my mouth would get so dry. I don’t always have a chance to stop and drink water.. so I started chewing again. After reading this article I AM DONE! thank you.. I will figure out something for my… Read more »
Manitowoc Ice Machine

I had no idea that chewing gum can be so dangerous! They are always talking about how dangerous cigarettes are but I doubt they realize that gum contains chemicals known to cause cancer in rats. I will be switching to mints.

Hi there. Found this post interesting. Have you heard of Pur gum? Do you know if they’re any better?
Thanks!

John Media @ server hosting

Bubble gums do have the substance called resin which makes it more like chewy and doesn’t dissolve. You would not surely swallow one because It will be hard for you to digest it. So its not recommended to swallow

I stopped chewing gum as soon as I read this. Unbelievable, yet so believable. My fiancee chews gum to help quit smoking, and my mom tried to convince me that there’s no plastic. I just forwarded this link to her, hopefully she’ll rethink gum!

I am so disappointed to hear about Glee Gum–thought it was a natural alternative. I hate that you cannot get the truth anywhere.

I only chew gum when I fly, to help avoid ear pain. Sending this article to others I know though, especially those with kids. Thanks so much.

Xylitol is made using a nickel catalyst. Every company’s report will contain some amount of nickel. I am interested in Glee’s new all-natural gum base this year. I only keep gum for breath emergencies.

This is appalling. Thank you for this insight…I won’t be chewing gum any time soon.

I haven’t chewed gum in ages. It’s not healthy on another level. Chewing is the first stage in digestion and chewing gum is a false alarm that food is to follow the chewing, which causes the stomach to release stomach acids. If no food comes down to digest, the acid can cause ulcers and other problems.

Ewww. I had never even thought about it….

There are a lot worse things/habits out there to be concerned about.
‘Big bad gum chemicals’..boo hoo!
Besides
You’re just gonna die anyway.

I remember hearing something about a component in chewing gum that they were going to ban, and then the whole thing just went away. That seems to happen a lot these days. When I was little, the gum came in little foil and paper packages with paper wrappers over foil liners. Candy bars came with paper wrappers over foil too. Now everything has to be wrapped in plastic. Back then, when you were done chewing the gum, you could fold the wrappers into jewelry. I can remember seeing many necklaces, rings and bracelets made from gum wrappers although I never… Read more »
Yeah – yuch. It hit me some months ago ‘what is gum made of anyways?’ mostly because I wanted to know what “Bubble Gum” flavor really consisted of. Turns out even the flavor is chemicals – yuck! Many speculate the bubble gum flavor is a mix of cherry, banana, vanilla and spearamint. Okay, enough of that – but I learned gum is plastic! Safe or not I stopped chewing it right away – I don’t know what else I thought it could possibly be. I don’t let my daughter chew it either. Good article, Emily

Creepy! I’ve never been a gum-chewer, but if I am ever tempted- never again!

Almost no one knows this, but I haven’t chewed gum since I was about 8 because of the germ factor- (everyone takes it out of their mouth with their hands to throw it away, and then proceed to touch everything else around them without washing their hands) so I love this. I just don’t know how to break it to my almost 70 year old dad though who has chewed at a minimum 1 full pack of gum a day for my entire 38 year long life! The only smell that I associate with him is chewing gum. I’m pretty… Read more »
When I Googled “allo natural chewing gum” looking for the brands that my coop sewlls, I got a load of Glee Gum references. Wise geek misinforms us : “One brand of natural chewing gum, Glee Gum, is perfect for gum chewers with … In addition, the gum base is made from all-natural chicle. Chicle is sap that is harvested from rainforest trees in Central America called Sapodilla trees using it supports the local economy and protects the Sapodilla trees from clear cutting. All the rubbers, glazes, waxes and flavors come from natural plant sources – without the use of any… Read more »

I am a gum chewer since it keeps me focused. I tried Glee and liked the taste but after awhile the gum falls apart.

Thanks for bring this to my attention. Now, what am I going to chew to keep me focused. Pen caps are out of the question.

Nice to know my gum brand is OK (Glee). And mints. I love breath mints.

ugh…. that is gross. and what’s the point really of choosing a gum that “might have” less plastic?
I used to LOVE chewing gum, until I started having jaw problems. Who knew that chewing gum is the #1 thing to avoid for jaw health? also- the juices that they release seriously hurt my stomach……

Instead of choosing the “lesser” evils, i’m just gonna continue avoiding gum. and forward this article to my fiance… he is still a gum chewer!

I don’t chew gum often. It gives me a headache, too. Sometimes, it even makes me gag.

I think I may print this out and hang it under my “No Gum!” sign in my classroom :)

Thank you very much for considering Glee!
We’re working hard to make our gum base more naturally.

Our boxes are made with recycled cardboard– no blister packs!
We avoid plastic whenever possible ’cause of its many drawbacks.

Gum is not yet perfect, and perhaps it never shall be.
But if you want to chew gum, we sure hope you choose Glee!

When I was little my parents told me not to swallow my gum because a gum tree would grow in my stomach. I think they did that so I wouldn’t swallow gum but I did and it gave it nightmares.

Maybe that’s why I’m not much of a gum chewer either.

Ew. That’s pretty gross.

Unbelievable… I had not clue….I WAS a gum chewer….thanks so much for the insight.. I love your site and stories.
Amy

Leslie @LaMamaNaturale

Hi Beth! Wow! Who would have thought? Great article.
I switched to Glee Gum since I started our all natural journey. Rootin’ for Glee! I love their gum and hope they can keep it REAL.
Happy Friday and weekend to you! :)

I’m a chewing gum hater and always have been. When I was thinking about what my criteria for romantic partners was, I came up with 1. doesn’t smoke and 2. doesn’t chew gum. Disgusting tacky habit.

I LOVE to find out that something I can’t stand is bad for our health and bad for the environment, too!

Lisa @Retro Housewife Goes Green

I have jaw issues so I don’t chew gum often and if I do I get Glee gum. :)

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