Plastics are extremely durable materials that come in all shapes, textures and colours, and provide convenience for our daily life.  But plastic now also pollutes every corner of the earth. It makes up over ten percent of our waste. Despite good intentions and efforts, less than five percent is recycled and turned into new goods.

When we think plastics and waste, we imagine water bottles and other packaging that inevitably reaches rivers, lakes, and oceans. We have seen the images of birds and sea life ingesting or choking on plastic pieces. Even chewing gum represents a concern. Why? We do not care much about its content, but that little strip or tablet we put in our mouth without much worry now contains plastic, along with aspartame that has replaced cane sugar in all the most popular brands. Gum is a also a nuisance covering streets and public buses, trains, theaters, schools. Millions are spent removing it with solvents, also made of petrochemicals.

Manuel (R) and Miguel Aldrete, Chicza founder and marketing manager with Jose Serrano (center) Canada representative

Gum base is made of a resin for chewiness, wax for softness, and elastomers to maintain its elasticity. The first chewing gum launched in 1871 by Thomas Adams in the US was made from the tree sap of the chicozapote tree (Manilkara zapota), which grows in the rainforest of Quintana Roo and Campeche, Mexico. Today, chewing gum is no longer made from the latex of the chicozapote, but with resins and waxes derived from petrochemicals and with other synthetic chemicals like BHT (Butylated Hydroxytoluene), Calcium Phosphate and Titanium Dioxide.

“Not Chicza,” says Jose Serrano, Canadian representative of the Consorcio Chiclero (Chicle Consortium), a social enterprise of over 40 cooperatives with 2,000 members in the Mayan rainforest that owns the Chicza brand. The Consorcio directly oversees the sustainable harvesting, processing, and exports of the raw latex. In blocks or “marquetas”, the unfinished chicle is shipped mainly to customers in Asia.  And under its brand Chicza, the Consorcio exports to Canada and 26 other countries the first 100 percent natural and certified organic chewing gum in the market since 2009.

Chiclero collecting the sap

Chicza is available in packs of 15g and 30g. It uses agave as a sweetener and comes in natural flavors like spearmint, cinnamon, wild mint, mixed berry, and lime.

There is a lot of greenwashing in the chewing gum segment. “Many brands make claims, but ask them about the content of their gum base,” said Mr. Serrano. In Canada, Chicza is now available in over 100 stores and is rapidly expanding as the eco-friendliest brand in the category. Chicza is a sustainable social enterprise supporting a community that protects a lush rainforest of over 1.3 million acres. And chewing Chicza means there are no disturbing patches of gum after disposal and the high cost of cleaning. Chicza is safe and compostable.