Chewing gum? Where does it go?

You could file this under the ever-expanding category of “Things I never imagined would be true”

By Morf Morford
Tacoma Daily Index

I don’t know about you, but I go long stretches of time where I forget that chewing gum exists.

I have probably chewed gum five times in the last decade – or two.

I probably last purchased chewing gum well into the previous century.

As an individual, I have the luxury of forgetting about something as inconsequential as chewing gum.

But, like cigarette butts, chewing gum lasts years, if not generations longer than any intended enjoyment any of us would have gotten and paid for.

Yes, like cigarette butts, chewing gum does not magically disappear after we use it.

Sometimes we discover this after looking (or reaching) under a public chair or bench.

For whatever reason, that is the preferred method of disposal for used gum.

It turns out that, up until recently, there has been no good way to get rid of that piece of gum that has lost its flavor.

Used chewing gum is the second most common littered item worldwide.  (1*)

And like cigarette butts, we use gum and then toss it without thinking about it.

Multiply that by how many sticks of gum a typical gum-chewer uses in a day by the multi-million people who chew gum on a regular basis. The math – and mess – and expense – of cleaning up all that gum residue quickly adds up, and creates a major problem. And opportunity.

The problem with gum is that the gum itself lasts far longer than the flavor.

That piece of gum lasts a lot longer than you might think.  Photo: Morf Morford

That piece of gum lasts a lot longer than you might think. Photo: Morf Morford

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If you are a regular gum-chewer, I suggest that you stop reading now. You really do not want to know why gum lasts so long.

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Gum lasts essentially forever because one of its prime ingredients is plastic.

It may not be appetizing, but it is durable.

What to do with a substance with a near eternal life-span?

Re-use it, of course.

There are multiple uses for a substance as ever-present and inexpensive as used gum.

You could do what Seattle has (unofficially) done.

By a series of perhaps accidental coincidences, Seattle has acquired what might be called a public, dynamic art exhibit and tourist attraction.

Yes, I am talking about the one and only (we hope) Gum Wall just outside of Seattle’s Pike Place Market.

Yes, it is a wall covered in used chewing gum. Is it art? I don't know about that, but somehow it has also become a place to stick business cards. It must be a Seattle thing.Photo: Morf Morford

Yes, it is a wall covered in used chewing gum. Is it art? I don’t know about that, but somehow it has also become a place to stick business cards. It must be a Seattle thing. Photo: Morf Morford

The city sanitation authorities do their best to scrub down the wall on a semi-regular basis.

But it doesn’t matter – the wall seems to cry out for color and texture only possible with a continuous contribution from an ever more eager audience.

The last time I was there, a few months ago, tourists from all over the world flocked to see – and contribute to – the ever-changing monument to Seattle’s unique contribution to arts and culture.

Yes, Seattle’s Gum Wall, for better or worse, is a tourist attraction – second only to The Space Needle and Pike Place Market.

And, you too could contribute to it. Or not.

If public accretions of other people’s used gum does not appeal to you, there are other, more practical uses for such a malleable, quasi-eternal substance.

Yes, that piece of gum currently in the mouth of some stranger, or maybe even someone you know and love could be cleaned up and turned into something useful.

There is a company that collects used gum in various public places – like airports – and turns it into something a bit more enduring than a sweet taste in your mouth.  (2*)

Yes, that piece of gum, instead of being stuck under your seat or on the bottom of your shoe, could become a coffee cup or a boot – or almost anything else.

You can see a video of the vision and possibilities of used gum here – https://www.facebook.com/1MillionWomen/videos/528135861059766/?.

And thanks to the gum chewers out there, it is close to an infinite resource.

 

(1*)    Second only to cigarette butts.

(2*)    https://www.buschsystems.com/resource-center/page/gum-recycling-turning-a-sticky-situation-into-a-recycling-opportunity