Did you know that chewing gum is partly made of plastic?
If your answer was no, you’re in good company — 85% of British adults had no idea either. In fact, with the exception of a few “natural” brands, all chewing gum on sale is made from butadiene-based synthetic rubber, a plastic product made from oil.
According to campaign organisation Just One Ocean, it’s not unlike the material we use to make car tyres.
But Iceland has now said it’s the first supermarket chain in the UK to sell plastic-free chewing gum.
The natural gum — Simply Gum — is reportedly completely biodegradable, and is made from a tree sap called chicle, instead of plastic.
“I absolutely detest the mess that discarded plastic chewing gum creates on our streets and the fortune that is wasted by councils trying to clear it up,” said Sir Malcolm Walker, the Iceland founder and executive chairman.
“For decades, regular gum makers have hidden their synthetic ingredients behind the catch-all term of ‘gum base’ which is consistently used as an ingredient on packs,” he added. “We are delighted to make it available to UK consumers in our stores so that they can have a real choice about what they are consuming and the impact they make on the environment.”
Chicle is taken from the sapodilla tree, which is native to Central America, and it was the base of the “gum-like product” chewed by the Aztecs and Mayans.
The move could also be a blessing for local councils, which spend around £60 million a year getting gum off pavements around the country, according to the Independent.
Around 95% of Britain’s streets are believed to be stained with gum — with Britons consuming around 100,000 tonnes of the stuff every year.
Iceland commissioned research around the issue of plastic in chewing gum and found that, after they realised that it was an ingredient, more than 75% of people said they would think twice about buying regular chewing gum again in the future.
The research also reportedly showed that around 90% of Britons are concerned about the damage being done to the environment by plastic.
The announcement on Wednesday comes after Iceland pledged to go plastic-free on its own brand products by 2023 in January.
Since then, the store started using a “plastic free” label to mark products that don’t contain any plastic in May. And in the same month it became the first supermarket chain in the UK to install a reverse vending machine in-store — to reward shoppers for recycling their plastic bottles with money-off vouchers.