How Green Is My Wintergreen?


April 19, 2011

By Brian Palmer

Gum is a blight on civilized society. It's always hiding on the underside of tables, or flattened on the pavement, or sticking to my shoes. Is it bad for the environment, too?

Unfortunately, there's not a lot of environmental data on the chewing-gum industry. But given how useless gum is, at least for most people, the Lantern isn't prepared to cut Big Chew much slack. Unlike food, gum provides no sustenance. Unlike geothermal power, it does no work. Unlike books and computers, gum conveys no knowledge. Sure, the sugarfree sort can help prevent tooth decay to some degree. But, hey ... brush your teeth, man. ...

... None of the major gum manufacturers have released life-cycle analyses on their products. A group of Dartmouth students did, however, analyze (PDF) several types of gum wrappers. It turns out that Bubble Tape-style products—where a single plastic shell, instead of many individual wrappers, holds the gum—were responsible for the least amount of greenhouse-gas emissions.

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