The unknown contributors of plastic pollution

August 13, 2019

When thinking of plastic pollution, pictures of fishing nets and vast amounts of hard plastic items come into mind. And even though microplastics are getting more and more topical, there are other, less recognised, plastic items polluting the environment. 

On the forefront of these are cigarette butts. They don’t make up the mass, but they clearly account for 30 to 40 % for the most-found items on coastlines. 

Another unrecognised item is chewing gum! Chewing gum is, in addition to sugar and flavourings, entirely composed of plastic polymers such as polyvinyl acetate and polyisobutene. These degrade as slowly as all other plastic materials – in theory chewing gum could be passed on over generations without losing its elasticity. 

As with the transition to bioplastics in other fields, there are also alternatives for those two examples of polluters available that can easily contribute to the overall goal of reducing undegradable polymers.

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Cigarette butt in sand