The Real Reason You Shouldn’t Swallow Chewing Gum
Rumor has it that if you swallow gum it will stay in your intestines for seven years – a bezoar without the magical properties of a cure for the poison . Of course, as we told you before, this is not true . But that doesn’t mean you have the right to swallow gum willy-nilly or spit it on the ground, for that matter. Chewing gum should be thrown into the trash can because it is absolutely harmful to the environment. I am reminded of this topic because of a question that came up in the comments to a recent post about how to find out if you are an asshole. The reader wondered if their spouse was right when they fought them for spitting gum on the ground, because what is the harm? After all, it is biodegradable. But this is not the case.
We put it in our mouth, but it’s not food – chewing gum is made from a synthetic material called polyisobutylene, which is also used to make inner tubes . It does not break down in the stomach or break down in the environment. As stated in How Stuff Works, “ When gum is done, it stays gum forever. “
Don’t spit it out
Americans chew a frankly ridiculous amount of gum every year – an average of about 300 sticks – and our churning jaws provide a $ 19 billion global industry . Many of these sticks are likely to get crushed in the street or spit in the dirt. Why is that bad? Think of gum as discarded plastic: difficult or impossible to recycle, and will likely sit around for a long time wherever it lands. If you spit on the street, it will stay there forever until someone removes it. Cities are spending a lot of money on this – according to The Atlantic’s interview with documentary filmmaker Andrew Nisker, director of The Dark Side of Chewing, the UK spends around £ 56 million annually on cleaning; in the United States, most of these costs are likely to be borne by property owners. Have you ever walked around the city and noticed strange black spots on the sidewalk? These are the remains of an old rubber band . As Nisker states:
Modern chewing gums are made from synthetic polymers, mostly plastic and synthetic rubber, and they are not biodegradable. … Chewing gum was once made from natural substances that germs could decompose. But modern gums are not a suitable exercise environment. … So, to get it off the streets, you need to blow it up with lots of hot water and steam and some chemicals that will help destroy it. It takes time and money.
Decorating aside, chewing gum is bad news for birds; if they swallow it, it could be fatal, which is not a good thing given that bird populations are already rapidly declining across North America .
But also don’t swallow
But don’t give a damn about the street. Why can’t you swallow it? While it is true that it will not settle in the stomach, it means it will pass undigested into your feces. And the gum covered in feces is, you guessed it, gum. Assuming it doesn’t build up and clog your own pipes (leading to a huge repair bill), it can go to your local wastewater treatment plant, where it can actually, uh, block work. Because chewing gum does not dissolve in water, it can cling to anything else that is mixed with the rest of the wastewater, contributing to the formation of so-called “fatbergs” that cause so many headaches in local municipalities . Gum can even end up in waterways and eventually into the ocean, where it pollutes like any other microplastic .
The only way to get rid of the gum is to throw it in the trash can. Sure, it will forever remain in the landfill – along with all our non-biodegradable shit – but at least you won’t ruin the environment or kill the bird when you do.