Got gum? World's second most common form of litter is being turned into sneakers


To lessen its environmental impact, gum is being recycled and used to fashion sneakers. Photo: AFP

Chewing gum is the world's second most common form of litter after cigarette butts.

And with the global market for gum expected to grow to almost US$39 billion (RM162 billion) by 2027, people are already coming up with original ways of dealing with its waste, starting with making everyday products from recycled gum.

This growth is notably fuelled by innovation in the sector, such as new sugar-free products.

Read more: Your next new pair of sneakers could be made out of... apples?

Currently worth US$29.9 billion (RM124 billion), the global market for chewing gum is expected to grow to around US$38.6 billion (RM160 billion) by 2027, according to insights from ReportLinker. In the US, gum sales are likely to total around US$8.1 billion (RM34 billion) for 2020 alone.

That's an awful lot of chewing gum, much of which will end up on the sidewalk. Of an estimated 374 billion pieces of gum sold worldwide each year, seven in 10 won't make it into a trash can. And a piece of chewing gum takes between five and six years to degrade.

Sneakers made with recycled gum

Although gum-chewers are encouraged to act responsibly and environmental awareness continues to grow, several concepts are taking shape to tackle the problem and recycle used chewing gum.

One of those concepts comes from London-based designer, Anna Bullus. Heading the GumDrop Limited start-up, the artist has meticulously studied the composition of chewing gum to find out exactly what it's made of and how it can be recycled to make new products – starting with a waste collection receptacle for used gum!

Read more: Can fashion labels attract more shoppers by going 'green'?

Other products in the range include a coffee cup and a guitar plectrum. The portable coffee mug – finished in a bright pink shade nodding to its past life – sells for £11.99 (RM65) on the Gumdrop website.

Anna Bullus has also developed a pair of sneakers made with recycled chewing gum. Created in collaboration with the Explicit brand, the shoes are made from 20% recycled gum from the streets of Amsterdam.

The sole even features a map of the Dutch capital. The limited-edition sneakers are priced at €190 per pair (RM930). As well as using recycled gum, the shoe is also crafted from recycled plastic.

Read more: How climate positive clothing is shaping the ecological role of fashion

Instead of throwing used chewing gum on the ground or elsewhere, in some areas it can be collected in specially designed boxes from the global recycling giant, TerraCycle.

The firm, which specialises in hard-to-recycle materials, has developed specific gum collection receptacles for used gum as well as its packaging. It remains to be seen if these are sufficiently widespread and sufficiently visible to change consumer habits.

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