Gum’s Environmental Impact: Biodegradability, Littering, and Health Concerns

December 2, 2021 in environment, recycling

Article summary and Key takeaways: The article explores the topic of gum biodegradability and its impact on the environment. It defines biodegradability and emphasizes its importance in reducing environmental impact. The article discusses the debate surrounding the biodegradability of gum, using the example of Orbit gum. It also highlights the environmental impact of gum littering and the financial implications it has for local governments and businesses. The article addresses the dissolvability of gum in stomach acid and mentions several gum brands that claim to be biodegradable. It discusses efforts to combat gum littering and mentions Wrigley’s chewing gum as a brand that has been at the center of discussions regarding biodegradability. The article explains the factors that affect the biodegradation time of gum and emphasizes the need for solutions to minimize gum’s environmental impact. It provides guidelines for proper gum disposal and concludes by emphasizing the importance of consumer choices in supporting sustainable gum options.

Is Gum Biodegradable?

Have you ever wondered what happens to gum after you spit it out? Does it biodegrade or does it linger in the environment for years? The issue of gum biodegradability has sparked debates and discussions, with many questioning whether chewing gum is harmful to the environment. In this article, we will delve into the world of gum biodegradability, exploring its impact on the environment, potential health implications, and the credibility of claims made by gum brands.

Definition of Biodegradability

Before we dive into the topic at hand, let’s first establish what biodegradability means. Biodegradability refers to the ability of a material to break down naturally through the activities of microorganisms, such as bacteria and fungi. When a material is biodegradable, it can decompose into simple, non-toxic substances over time.

Importance of Biodegradability in Reducing Environmental Impact

The concept of biodegradability holds significant importance in reducing our environmental impact. Non-biodegradable materials, such as plastics, contribute to pollution and harm ecosystems. By using and promoting biodegradable products, we can help minimize waste, protect natural resources, and reduce our carbon footprint.

Is Gum Biodegradable?

The question of whether gum is biodegradable has been a topic of debate. One popular discussion on Reddit shed light on this issue, with users sharing their opinions and experiences. While some claimed that gum is biodegradable, others were skeptical, questioning the long-lasting nature of discarded gum.

In an effort to determine the truth, let’s examine the case of Orbit gum, a popular brand known for its claim of being biodegradable. According to the official Orbit gum website, their gum base is made from a blend of polymers, including food-grade rubber and a naturally derived resin. While this may sound promising, it is important to consider that other ingredients, such as sweeteners and flavorings, may not be biodegradable.

Furthermore, the biodegradation time of chewing gum is a contentious issue. It is commonly believed that gum can take years to biodegrade due to its synthetic nature. However, a study published in Environmental Science and Technology suggests that gum can biodegrade in a matter of weeks or months, depending on various factors such as temperature, humidity, and microbial activity. This contradicts the commonly held belief that gum remains in the environment for an extended period.

Environmental Impact of Gum

Regardless of the biodegradability of gum, its environmental impact cannot be ignored. Gum littering is a prevalent issue in many urban areas, causing aesthetic and environmental problems. When gum is improperly disposed of, it sticks to surfaces, making it difficult to remove. This not only creates an eyesore but also poses a risk to wildlife, as animals may mistake gum for food and suffer from digestive issues.

Moreover, gum littering has financial implications for local governments and businesses. The cost of cleaning gum off sidewalks and public spaces can be substantial, diverting resources from other important initiatives.

To combat gum littering, various initiatives have been implemented. For instance, the city of Amsterdam in the Netherlands has introduced “Gumshoe,” a pavement material made from recycled chewing gum. This innovative solution not only repurposes discarded gum but also serves as a reminder to dispose of gum responsibly.

Dissolvability of Gum in Stomach Acid

One common concern surrounding gum consumption is whether it dissolves in stomach acid when swallowed. The myth that gum remains in the stomach for years is widely debunked, as it is not resistant to stomach acid. While gum is not fully digested like food, it passes through the digestive system relatively quickly. However, swallowing large amounts of gum or consuming it regularly may lead to digestive discomfort or blockages, especially in young children.

Biodegradable Gum Brands

In recent years, several gum brands have emerged, claiming to be biodegradable. Articles and lists compiling these brands can be found online, but it is essential to evaluate the credibility and effectiveness of these claims. Some of these brands include Simply Gum, Glee Gum, and Tree Hugger Gum.

While these brands may indeed use biodegradable ingredients for their gum base, it is crucial to consider the environmental impact of other components, such as packaging. Additionally, the disposal of these gums should be taken into account, as improper disposal can still contribute to littering and environmental degradation.

Gum as Littering

The issue of gum littering raises the question of whether gum is considered littering. While it is not a biodegradable material, gum is often improperly disposed of, leading to its accumulation in public spaces. This makes it difficult to remove and can have detrimental effects on the environment.

Efforts to combat gum littering have been implemented worldwide. In Singapore, for example, strict anti-littering laws and hefty fines have contributed to the reduction of gum litter. Additionally, education campaigns and the placement of dedicated gum disposal bins have been successful in promoting responsible gum disposal.

Wrigley’s Chewing Gum and Biodegradability

One specific brand that has been at the center of discussions regarding biodegradability is Wrigley’s chewing gum. Various discussions and articles can be found online, with differing opinions on the biodegradability of their gum. While some claim that Wrigley’s gum does not biodegrade due to its synthetic ingredients, others argue that their gum base is indeed biodegradable.

It is important to approach these sources with caution and evaluate their accuracy and reliability. While Wrigley’s has made efforts to promote responsible gum disposal, more research is needed to determine the true biodegradability of their gum.

How Long Does It Take for Gum to Biodegrade?

The biodegradation time of gum can vary depending on several factors. As mentioned earlier, temperature, humidity, and microbial activity play a role in the breakdown of gum. On average, gum can biodegrade within weeks to months, contrary to the perception that it remains in the environment for years.

Environmental Impact of Gum

Despite its relatively short biodegradation time, the environmental impact of gum cannot be overlooked. The improper disposal of gum contributes to littering and pollution, affecting both urban and natural environments. It is crucial to explore potential solutions and alternatives to minimize gum’s environmental impact.

One possible solution is the development of truly biodegradable gum that breaks down completely into non-toxic substances. Additionally, raising awareness about responsible gum disposal and implementing stricter regulations can help combat gum littering.

Proper Disposal of Chewing Gum

To reduce the environmental impact of gum, proper disposal methods should be followed. Chewing gum should be placed in dedicated gum disposal bins or wrapped in tissue before being disposed of in regular waste bins. Avoid spitting gum out onto sidewalks, streets, or any other public spaces.

Responsible gum disposal is essential in maintaining clean and litter-free environments. By taking small steps in our daily lives, we can contribute to a healthier planet.


In conclusion, the biodegradability of gum is a complex topic, with various factors at play. While gum may biodegrade within weeks to months, its environmental impact cannot be ignored. Gum littering poses aesthetic, financial, and ecological challenges, requiring concerted efforts to combat this issue.

As consumers, we have the power to choose gum brands that prioritize sustainability and responsible disposal. By supporting and demanding truly biodegradable gum options, we can contribute to a cleaner and greener future.

Question 1:
Answer: It takes around 5 years for gum to biodegrade.

Question 2:
Answer: Gum is bad for the environment as it is not easily biodegradable and can contribute to litter and pollution.

Question 3:
Answer: Yes, there are biodegradable chewing gums available that are designed to break down more easily.

Question 4:
Answer: Chewing gum should be disposed of in a proper waste bin or wrapped in tissue and thrown in the trash. It should not be thrown on the ground or stuck to surfaces.


About the author 

Jordan Miller

Hi there, I'm Jordan! I graduated from UC Berkeley with a major in Environmental Policy, but my real education has been in the field, turning theory into practice. My days are filled with implementing sustainable solutions and teaching communities how to embrace an eco-friendly lifestyle. I believe small changes can make a big impact, and I'm here to guide you through every step of going green.