Did you know that most chewing gum is made from plastic? Chewing gum is not typically recycled, so every piece of gum becomes one more item that goes into landfills or oceans. Learn about an innovative designer who is finding efficient ways to gather chewed-up gum and make it into plastic products, as well as artists who incorporate gum and wrappers into their work.
Throughout history, people chewed substances that were not plastic. Ancient Greeks chewed a resin from the Mastic tree, Mayans chewed a tree resin called chicle, and many native peoples chewed spruce gum. Around 1850, people started chewing paraffin wax, which is made from petroleum. Today, most chewing gum is made from a type of plastic called polyisobutylene, which is the same material as you find in bicycle inner tubes.
GumDrop – Collecting and Reusing Chewing Gum
When it comes to chewing gum recycling, the most exciting story is a company called Gumdrop. British designer Anna Bullus decided she wanted to find a way to recycle chewing gum. She knew that it costs many municipal governments a lot of money to scrape chewing gum off sidewalks. She figured out a way to collect gum using her giant pink bubble-shaped containers made from recycled gum themselves, and then transform them into plastic products.
Non-Plastic Chewing Gum Options
- Glee Gum – in Rhode Island – some packaging is plastic (gum pouches) – they also sell Halloween-sized packages in cardboard
- Simply Gum – in New York City
- Chicza – in Mexico – foil in the packaging
Projects to Make from Gum Wrappers
Make a dress or purse from gum wrapper chains
Make a coiled vase or bowl from gum wrappers
Make collage art from the foil wrappers
Here’s a foil wrapper art tutorial:
Decoupage a pair of shoes
Decorate your fingernails
Start a fire in an emergency
Artists Who Incorporate Gum or Wrappers in their Art
Note: he doesn’t actually chew the gum before using it, but warms it with a hair dryer
Ben has painted more than 10,000 blobs of chewing gum stuck on sidewalks around the world.
Other Items Mentioned in the Episode
Extra Gum commercial
- Script for this podcast episode about creative reuse of chewing gum and gum wrappers (not a transcript but gives the main ideas)
- The Trashmagination podcast theme music is Kitchen from the Marian Circle Drum Brigade.