Chewing on plastic: Milliways calls for single-use plastic levy on gum
15 Feb 2022 --- UK-based chewing gum brand Milliways is calling for a change in government policy that would reduce single-use plastic pollution and educate consumers about the potentially harmful ingredients used in mainstream gum brands.
Launched last year, Milliways took off in the UK by advertising naturality in gum ingredients and packaging, drawing attention to the environmental, financial and human health damages caused by the global chewing gum trade.
The startup, which received a £1 million (US$1.36 million) cash investment in October 2021, offers a range of alternative products containing solely natural ingredients wrapped in biodegradable materials.
Milliways is now requesting the UK government place a levy on single-use plastic chewing packs, eliminate VAT for biodegradable alternatives in the space, and enforce labeling requirements for plastic content in gum products.
Speaking to PackagingInsights, Milliways’ founder and CEO Tom Raviv says: “We want to bring light to the fact that each day millions of people are unknowingly chewing on bits of plastic made from petrochemicals that can’t biodegrade or be recycled.”
Chewing on plastic
Gum base, the primary ingredient for conventional chewing gum that gives it its rubbery texture, is often made using synthetic polymers like polyethylene. In addition, materials like paraffin wax, latexes and stearic acid are often added to the base mixture.
Milliways says consumers are largely unaware of what they are chewing on. An estimated 75% of people are unaware there is fossil fuel-based plastic in gum, and 32% believe animal products, such as gelatine, are the primary ingredient.
“Conventional plastic-based chewing gum is cheaper to produce than plant-based alternatives despite the costs imposed on society and our environment. Planet-friendly products like plastic-free chewing gum cost more to make as plant-based, and non-artificial ingredients are used in the process,” says Raviv.
“This means shoppers are being forced to pay a premium if they want to make better choices for our environment and our health.”
The company asserts gum base, along with other common chewing gum ingredients like sugar, sucralose, aspartame, lanolin, and artificial flavorings, could contribute significantly to serious human health problems like diabetes, cancer, and obesity.
Besides human health threats, the waste produced by both chewing gum products and the single-use plastics they are commonly packaged in has a serious detrimental impact on the global environment, says Milliways.
Approximately 374 billion pieces of gum are made each year globally, leading to 100,000 metric tons of chewing gum being disposed of annually.
“Whether disposed of responsibly or not, the plastic element of the product means there can be no positive outcome for the environment. If disposed of in a bin, the plastic will either be incinerated or sent to landfill where it will remain and will not decompose,” says the company.
“If dropped on a pavement, it will remain there unless removed professionally through pressure wash, estimated to cost more than £100 million (US$135 million) of taxpayer funding each year to remove.”
Regardless of financial sustainability, the removal process using high-pressure hoses is not an environmentally sustainable solution, says the company. Instead, it breaks up the gum into microplastic, which is washed away into the drainage system and then into public waterways.
Call on the UK government
Given these problems, Milliways has submitted responses to the UK government’s ongoing consultation on commonly littered single-use plastic items, ahead of what is likely to be a ban on many such products like cutlery and plates.
Milliways says chewing gum and its packaging should be included and recommends that three fundamental policies be enforced. These are:
- Plastic content must be featured on product labels for chewing gum, with gum base ingredients shown clearly for consumers.
- A levy should be imposed on any chewing gum containing petroleum-based materials. This would deter consumers from buying dangerous products and would raise public funds for cleaning.
- Biodegradable, plant-based alternatives to conventional chewing gum should be subject to zero-rated VAT. This would reduce prices and encourage consumers to buy more sustainable products.
Miliways’ product ranges fit into this category, containing only ingredients like gum arabica, natural flavorings and vegetable glycerin.
Innova Market Insights highlighted consumer demand for naturality in their products by naming “Back to the Roots” as a top trend for 2022.
By Louis Gore-Langton
This feature is provided by FoodIngredientsFirst’s sister website, PackagingInsights.
To contact our editorial team please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
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