Iceland has become the first supermarket chain in the UK to sell plastic free chewing gum.
Local councils are believed to spend around £60 million a year removing gum from pavements up and down the country.
But with more than 100,000 tonnes of chewing gum consumed every year and an estimated 95% of Britain’s streets stained with the sticky substance, they are facing a losing battle.
However the new natural gum – Simply Gum – is completely biodegradable, making it better for the environment.
It is made from a tree sap called ‘chicle’ which is extracted from the sapodilla tree, native to Central America.
The decision to stock the product forms part of the supermarket’s pledge to go 'plastic free' on its own label products – something the chain aims to fulfil by the end of 2023.
Off the back of the announcement, Iceland commissioned research of 2000 UK adults which found 80% have no idea what ordinary chewing gum is made of.
And shockingly, 85% were not aware it usually contains plastic.
Sir Malcolm Walker, Iceland founder and executive chairman, said: ‘I absolutely detest the mess that discarded plastic chewing gum creates on our streets, and the fortune that is wasted by councils trying to clear it up.
‘For decades, regular gum makers have hidden their synthetic ingredients behind the catch all term of ‘gum base’ which is consistently used as an ingredient on pack.
‘Simply Gum uses the original, natural gum base of chicle and is fully biodegradable.
‘We are delighted to make it available to UK consumers in our stores so that they can have a real choice about what they are consuming and the impact they make on the environment.’
Around 60% of the UK use chewing gum and of those who do, around two thirds would prefer a gum which isn’t made from synthetic ingredients.
And more than three quarters of gum buyers said they will think twice about buying regular chewing gum again in the future.
As a result, 85% of all Brits think brands have a responsibility to make it clearer what ingredients their products contain.
The research also found nine in 10 are worried about the damage being done to the environment by plastic.
And three quarters said they have actively attempted to cut down of the amount of products containing or packaged in plastic they purchase.
Food psychologist, Dr Christy Fergusson, who is working in partnership with Iceland, said: ‘Over the past several years, as consumers we have become more conscious when it comes to the products we buy and the impact that our diet and lifestyle choices have on the environment.
‘As a result, we want to know what we are purchasing, so we can make more informed decisions.
‘With the introduction of Simply Gum, Iceland is taking another step forwards to that goal.’
Around three quarters consider products which contain only natural ingredients to be healthier than products that don't.
And 40% said they are buying fewer items which contain synthetic materials than they did as recently as five years ago.
Simply Gum creator, Caron Proschan, added: ‘I created Simply Gum because I recognised a need for a natural gum that was made with high quality, sustainable ingredients.
‘We chose Iceland as our UK launch partner because of this shared commitment to quality and sustainability.
‘Iceland continues to lead the way in terms of enabling consumers to make informed and responsible choices.
‘We are excited to introduce Simply Gum to the UK market and we hope that Iceland's customers will be excited about trying a better chew.’
Simply Gum is now available in Iceland stores across the country and online – it costs £2 for a pack of 15 and comes in mint, maple and ginger flavours.
Iceland also recently announced that it will be extending its trial for the use of reverse vending machines in England, Scotland and Wales.
Following the launch of the trial in Fulham, Iceland’s fast growing chain of larger stores, The Food Warehouse, will see its first reverse vending machine installed in Wolverhampton. Machines will also be installed at the Musselburgh store, near Edinburgh, and in Mold in North Wales.
The six month trials are designed to help the company better understand consumer perceptions and appetite for plastics recycling technology across the UK.
Reverse vending machines reward individuals for recycling, by providing money or vouchers in return for empty containers. Iceland’s reverse vending machines will accept its empty plastic beverage bottles and repay customers with a 10p voucher for each recycled bottle to be used in store.