What is the decomposition time of gum?

August 12, 2023
min read

Short answer

The decomposition time of gum is typically around 20-25 years.


Gum decomposition is a natural process that occurs over time. When gum is discarded, it can take several years to decompose due to its chemical composition. Most chewing gum contains a synthetic rubber base, such as polyisobutylene, which is not easily broken down by natural processes. This means that gum can remain in the environment for a significant period, contributing to pollution.

Instead of decomposing, gum tends to harden and become compacted as it is exposed to the elements. This is primarily due to its hydrophobic nature. When exposed to rain, the gum does not absorb water and instead repels it, preventing microbial action from breaking it down. As a result, gum often sticks to pavements, walls, and other surfaces, creating an unsightly and stubborn form of litter.

The decomposition of gum can be accelerated by human intervention. Gum removal techniques, such as steam cleaning or the use of specialized cleaning agents, can help break down the gum's rubber base by softening it. Additionally, some countries have imposed fines or penalties for littering gum, encouraging responsible disposal. Ultimately, raising awareness about the environmental consequences of gum disposal and promoting proper waste management can contribute to reducing the long-lasting impact of gum decomposition on our surroundings.

Is it possible to recycle gum?

Intresting facts

  • Gum is made up of synthetic materials such as polymers, resins, plasticizers, and fillers, which are designed to be non-biodegradable and resistant to decomposition.
  • Despite being difficult to decompose, gum can eventually break down over a very long period of time, estimated to be anywhere from 20 to 25 years.
  • The main reason gum takes so long to decompose is due to its sticky nature, which allows it to adhere to various surfaces and prevents it from being easily broken down by natural processes.
  • When gum is discarded improperly in the environment, it can create significant litter and environmental hazards, as it can be difficult to remove from surfaces and can even damage the ecosystem.
  • Some innovative solutions have been proposed to tackle gum waste, such as the use of special recycling methods and the development of biodegradable gum alternatives that can naturally decompose in a shorter period.

Summary and final thoughts

The decomposition time of gum varies depending on the ingredients it contains. Most commercial gums are made from synthetic polymers that are not easily biodegradable, and therefore, can persist in the environment for a significant period. While it is commonly believed that gum takes years or even decades to decompose, there is limited scientific research on the exact timeframe. Some studies suggest that gum can take anywhere from a few months to several years to break down. Additionally, improper disposal of gum, such as sticking it under furniture or on the streets, further prolongs its decomposition process. Proper disposal and recycling of gum is crucial to minimize its environmental impact.

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