Tuesday, August 9, 2011

New Gum is Biodegradable

Photo courtesy: Rev7

Throwing out gum isn't much better for the environment than swallowing it is for your stomach. That's because conventional gum doesn't biodegrade. Ever. And Americans chew around 100 million pounds of the stuff every year.

But now there's a new kind of gum on the market, so you can freshen your breath without sullying the planet - Rev7, the degradable gum that dissolves into a fine powder in a matter of months. (Caution when hitting the link to Rev7 - it opens with loud music and flashing stuff. Bit of a shock.)

This isn't the first time we've seen eco-friendly gum; a co-operative in the Mexican rainforest brought an organic, biodegradable version to Britain in 2009.

A big part of the problem is that many chewers don't bother to dispose of their gum properly; but, throw it on sidewalks or stick it to the undersides of furniture instead. Cleaning gum off of sidewalks is a major headache because it's so sticky; and, unfortunately, the passage of time does nothing to ease the problem. In fact, it became such a problem in Singapore that its importation has been banned.

But Rev7 is designed not only to degrade, but to be easily cleaned. Normal gum is hydrophobic (does not mix with water), and things that dissolve immediately are hydrophilic (mix well with water). But Rev7 is amphiphilic, a combination of both. So you can chew it, but it allows enough water to penetrate it that it will slowly break down, and can be removed from a sidewalk with normal cleaning techniques (a hose and a broom).

The new gum comes in peppermint, spearmint, and cinnamon.

Now, call me paranoid; but, I have to wonder how much of this fine, white powder is inadvertently swallowed by the chewer before disposing of the gum and moving on to the next piece. My next suspicion is concerning the properties that eventually turn this gum into this fine,white powder. Exactly what are they and what effect do these properties or this powder have on our bodies?

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