Photo of bubble gum on a shoe by Gratisography

Chewing Gum and Wrapper Creative Reuse

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.

You can listen to this podcast episode on creative reuse of chewing gum and candy wrappers in this YouTube video. It originally aired in October 2018.

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

Get inspired by Charlie DeCano of the Etsy shop Awkward Charlie to make foil collage art.

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

Maurizio Savini
Note: he doesn’t actually chew the gum before using it, but warms it with a hair dryer

Sophia Matveeva

Ben Wilson

Ben has painted more than 10,000 blobs of chewing gum stuck on sidewalks around the world.

Luisa Caldwell

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