Swallow a piece of gum and it’ll stay in your body for 12 years, goes the old wives’ tale. And now that we know nearly all the gum on the market today is made out of synthetic plastics, the tales of it being harmful to your body may not seem so far-fetched. Even more disconcerting is knowing that that all those chewed-up chunks of gum you chomped on as a child and naughtily stuck under your desk at school, or even the ones you discarded diligently into the bin, still exist in the same form today and will outlive you for many more years in the future.

Gum is completely non-recyclable, non-biodegradable and detrimental to sea life, breaking down into microplastics that end up in the ocean. It’s also the second-most-littered item after cigarette butts and costs millions to remove from pavements around the globe. It seems Singapore has got it right, abolishing it altogether since 1992; perhaps other nations should follow suit.

Going back to the beginning, gum was made from a natural rubber substance called chicle from the sapodilla trees of Central America. Chicle was the common ingredient used for gum production pre-World War II, and it was only in the 1960s that manufacturers started switching from this natural rubber to the more affordable synthetic rubbers. For those who can’t quite give up their chewing gum habit but want an eco-alternative, or for any chicle-curious chewers out there, we’ve taste-tested two brands of gum that have gone back to natural chicle as their main ingredient.

The Humble Co. chewing gum

Photo credit: Seed

The Humble Co.

Flavours: mint, lemon

Price: $24 for 12pcs from FoodCraft HK

The box is made from simple recyclable paper packaging and contains small round balls of gum. You’ll give your jaw a good workout with this gum (which is claimed to be a good thing, according to dentists). The mint flavour owns a subtle taste akin to a weak cup of peppermint tea that then fades after around five minutes of flavour-filled chewing. These are sugar free, sweetened with xylitol. The tang of the lemon flavour was favoured over the mint by our tasters.

Simply Gum

Photo credit: Ever Images Photography

Simply Gum

Flavours: mint, cinnamon

Price: $22.54 for 15pcs from iHerb

The fancy packaging makes it look like a premium product, and we were rather impressed by the set of “post-chew wraps” built cleverly into the box to save you having to find an old tissue. Disappointingly, they’ve gone a bit too natural in the appearance of the actual product, which resembles fish pellets rather than chewing gum. The mint taste was even weaker than The Humble Co. variety, really harking back to pre-war times. The cinnamon flavour, however, was a hit, especially amongst our North American tasters.

Will this become a regular purchase?

Probably not. We gave up chewing gum long ago, and although we appreciate these brands and what they stand for, we’ll probably continue to abstain altogether. But for those who love their gum-chewing habit, both these brands break down naturally and will give you a guilt-free chew. If breath freshness is your chief concern, for a more natural way to go about it, try out oil pulling in the morning. Simply swish around a tablespoon of oil (coconut, olive, sesame) in your mouth for 5–20 minutes to pull out any toxins and keep your mouth healthy and fresh.

Hannah Chung is currently on a zero waste challenge; she seeks eco-alternatives and green solutions for everyday living and aims to achieve a zero waste life. Follow her journey on Instagram @thezerowastechallenge

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