Chewing Gum

I don’t do chewing gum because not only does it come packed in plastic, it is actually made from plastic. Yes, while there are a few natural gums on the market  most chewing gums are actually synthetic…. plastic in fact.

As I am sure you know, chewing gum is a non-nutritive, non-digestible, water-insoluble substance that can be chewed, (duh!), without disintegrating, for a long period of time.

And that it consists of an elastomer, a chewy base, with added sweeteners and  flavours to make the experience more pleasant.

Up until WWII, the chewing gum base was usually made from chicle  a latex sap that comes from the sapodilla tree –  a  natural rubber. This has since been replaced with synthetic rubber, a plastic.

Which Elastomer

Elastomers in gum are what give it the chew.

These used to be and occasionally still are natural latexes such as couma macrocarpa (also called leche caspi or serve), loquat (also called nispero),tunu, elution and the most popular, chicle.

These days most elastomers are synthetic rubbers such as butyl rubber

The raw materials for making butyl rubber are isobutylene and isoprene. Isoprene is a byproduct of  naphtha or oil, and as a side product in the production of ethylene.

Other Stuff

Other ingredients according to Wikipedia  may include the following:

  • Resins: provide a cohesive body or strength, and are most often glycerol esters of gum, terpene resins, and/or polyvinyl acetate ( more about the latter below).
  • Waxes: act as softening agents and are most usually paraffin or microcrystalline wax.
  • Fats: behave as plasticizers and mainly come from hydrogenated vegetable oils.
  • Emulsifiers: help to hydrate, the most common being lecithin or glycerol monostearate.
  • Fillers: impart texture and the most commonly used are calcium carbonate or talc.
  • Antioxidants: protect from oxidation and extend shelf-life; the most common type is BHT.

The Gum Association says

Gum base ” is made of a combination of food-grade polymers, waxes and softeners that give gum the texture desired by consumers and enable it to effectively deliver sweetness, flavor and various other benefits, including dental benefits.

What are polymers?

A polymer is a string of molecules (monomers) that usually contain carbon and hydrogen. Polymers are found naturally in the human body, animals, plants, and minerals. For example, DNA is a polymer, as are the proteins and starches in the foods we eat.

Man-made polymers can be identical in structure to those found in the natural environment, but in many cases, these polymers provide guaranteed consistency, quality and purity that are not always found in some natural materials. This quality is particularly important for food-grade polymers used as ingredients.

What are food-grade polymers?

Food-grade polymers have been rigorously tested and have been determined to be safe for use in food. In chewing gum, polymers are what provide gum with its basic elastic properties. All polymers used in gum are food-grade and are legally permitted for use by international/national regulatory agencies, including those in the U.S., Europe, and Asia.

You can read more about synthetic polymers here.

Safe To Chew?

So are these food grade plastics gums with their paraffin and  yummy vinyl acetate additive  are safe?  Well plastic and paraffin certainly don’t sound appetising and vinyl acetate was once  classified by the Canadian Government as a “potentially high hazard substance.” This was later overturned (2010) under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act (CEPA). The decision was based on information received during the public comment period, and  from the risk assessment conducted by the European Union.

Environmental Hazard?

YES!!! Because it is plastic, gum doesn’t biodegrade – which means it has to be carefully disposed of – either landfilled or incinerated. If it ends up on the street as much of it does, it sticks like mad to the pavement and looks really ugly. It needs to be specially removed – which costs a lot. “The LGA (Local Government Authority points out that the average piece of gum costs about 3p to buy – but 50 times that to clean up (£1.50). Most chewing gum never biodegrades and once it is trodden into the pavement this requires specialised equipment to remove. “

Natural Gums

If you cant give up gum there are some natural gums out there. I have not tried these so please let me know how they taste. And I guess they come plastic packed. Again do let me know.

Peppersmith U.K. do a natural based gum.

It contains Xylitol (wood sugar), Natural chicle gum base, Peppermint oil, Calcium carbonate, Gum arabic (thickner), Rapeseed lecithin (emulsifier), Vegetable glycerol (humectant), Carnauba wax (glazing agent).Suitable for vegetarians.

You can buy it at Holland & Barrett, other stores and of course on line.

Here is a review of 8 of the healthier chews available in the U.S.

Sneaky Plastics

Here are some more products that surprisingly contain plastic.


Chocolate – Original Beans

Oh my….. this company is leading the way. Their chocolate has to be the greenest I have yet come across.

Original Beans was founded by Philipp Kaufmann who,has worked for both the the WWF and the UN. He wanted to develop a business that would drive conservation.

So for every bar you buy, Original Beans plants a tree in the rainforest. They help conserve the rainforest and the bean farmers livlihood plus pay them a decent wage.


Original Beans helps establish tree nurseries, creates conservation training programs, and helps with planting buffer zones around rainforest reserves. New cacao trees generate income for farmers after three years; the other diverse plantings secure future food and firewood.

“Original Beans obligates itself to pay the farmers more than the sixfold of the official fair-trade premium in exchange for high quality and ecological commitment. This way we can convince smallholder famers to refrain from slash-and-burn pratices – the number one climate killer – and instead convert to a more sustainable semi-wild cultivation of mixed crops.”

They work with international agronomy institutes, such as the CATIE and the CIRA. Full traceability is guaranteed of all cacaos And they encourage the growing of unusual and rare cocoa beans for example they rediscovered and replanted a long forgotten and almost extinct bean , the Piura Porcelana.

The chocolate is organic which means the cacao beans have been grown in pesticide-free fields and free of preservatives.

The finished product does not additives or lecithin, raw cane sugar is used as a sweetener.

Plastic Free Packaging

There is so much more of interest But it is the packaging that really gets us going over here at PIR.

They use bio-compostable carton packaging made from FSC paper and printed with low-migration, natural inks from Lessebo Bruk.

They use  “Natureflex foil for the chocolate sector. Made from renewable FSC wood, with a thin metallised layer (0,02%), it guarantees a  high barrier to moisture, yet is garden-compostable by EU & US standards.”

And finally “To protect your chocolate, we use FLO-PAK Green packaging chips, made from 100% recycled material. They will be biologically reduced to carbon dioxide, water and humus without any residues within 1–3 years.”

Sadly I havn’t actually got to try any and at up to £4.45 A BAR IT IS NOT CHEAP.  

If any one else has tried it, please let me know how it is.

You can find places to purchase here.

And more plastic free sweets & chocolates here


Aberystwyth with love….

louie knightMy impressions of Aberystwyth have been mostly formed by the surreal, rather wonderful writings of Malcolm Pryce creator of Welsh noire. His lonely gum-shoe Louie Knight prowls the greasy, sun-lotion slicked streets crushing discarded rock underfoot. A man caught in a miserable miasma of broken dreams blurred neon and light drizzle. His investigations take him to half abandoned caravan parks, seedy amusements arcades and dreary pubs. In short Aberystwyth sounded like a run down Blackpool. . Thankfully it is nothing like that.

In fact we greatly enjoyed our stay in this friendly and welcoming town not least because of the wide range of plastic free treats on offer.

On Saturday there is a farmers market that sells real cheeses and fresh pasta. We were rather late and had to settle for the beetroot and garlic pasta. It looked like a big plate of bacon when it was cooked which was confusing! Strange but tasty.

We loved the cheese shop and the coffee merchants. Got some ridiculously expensive but wonderfully flavoured nettle Gouda and some reasonably priced Brazilian coffee beans. They also do loose tea.

Next up was the sweet shop for chocolate covered ginger balls. Hot brown orbs of fun!

Had the best fish and chips ever – in a cardboard box. Rather missed tomato ketchup but held firm! Even though we have a bottle in the van it stayed in the cupboard.

There is a little fish shop where we got some uncooked salmon in our own bags of course.

Got a naked cucumber at the health food shop and could have bought brown rice in paper bags if we had needed any. Which we didn’t thanks to Whole Foods Market.

Finally and I don’t know if I should tell you this but I got some loose hand rolling tobacco. £4.75 for 300 grams. Is that expensive. I don’t know.

What Are Refill Stores?

Bulk buy or refill stores are places you can buy food loose.You take as much as you want/need from a larger container and you can usually use your own packaging.

Loose Food A to Z

Find out if a shop near you sells bulk food loose. This is stuff that that normally comes plastic packaged i.e rice, pasta and salt. And yes these shops do exist in the U.K. There’s just not many of them.
Heres alist of towns with shops selling loose food.


While these shops provide bags and they are almost always plastic ones. You will need to take your own plastic-free /reusable bags, tubs and bottles.


The weight of the container may make a difference at checkout. Some shops  subtract the tare weight but other don’t. The tare weight is the weight of the empty container.



Find otherloose food stores here

Find A Milk Delivery Service With Glass Bottles Here


Sometimes supermarkets can surprise you – check out the plastic-free and reduced packaging products here.

Help Me

Please add any shops you know of in the comments below and I will incorporate them into the post.




Lidles  is a chain of budget supermarkets. It offers some plastic free surprises. (Click the links to see a review and other options). Take your own bags

porridge oats in a paper bag

salt in a cardboard box

pistachios (take your own bag and scoop out as much as you want)

White rice in a cardboard box

Bakery section selling loose rolls and continental pastries. These are good value and pretty good – particularly enjoyed the pain au raisin. Again take your own bags.

Tissues, box of,  without a plastic collar.

I haven’t tried these but they look promising;
bread mix flour with yeast already added just add oil and water, what sounds like plastic free corn flour and breadcrumbs in a box (no plastic crackle when squeezed).

Sadly most of the veg is plastic wrapped and all the meat and cheese.


I have not seen these myself but know a woman who has.

Here are some packaging less products from Louises Bayfield and her  “POSTIVE PRODUCTS LIST (UK) a list of High Street and Supermar-ket products that have no packaging or in some way help reduce packaging.

Butter – Paper

Bread, loaves and rolls – Bulk from Bakery – Very good selection

Breadcrumbs – Cardboard – Can anyone confirm there is no bag inside?

Bread Mixes, various larger bags – Paper

Cake Mixes, various – Paper – Seasonal item not always in stock

Cornflour – Cardboard – Can anyone confirm that there is no bag inside?

Doughnuts – Bulk from Bakery

Feta – Glass Jar

Fish Fingers and battered fish, MSC – Cardboard

Fruit and Vegetables – Reasonable selection of loose produce

Nuts, salted cashews, pistachios – Bulk bins – Take very light weight bags as no tare

Oats – Paper – Excellent value

Pastries, Croissants, Pain Au Choc and various Danishes – Bulk from Bakery

Pizza Slices – Bulk from Bakery

Rice, white – Cardboard

Salt – Cardboard

Washing powder, non-bio – Cardboard – No plastic scoop


U.K. All over Weigh and Save Shops

Long time ago when I was young we used to visit the Weigh & Save shop in the precinct down the road. In it were a number of  big bins containing everything from beans to corn flakes. You  scooped what you needed into the bags provided, in the quantities you wanted then weighed and paid at the till. I loved it. But  then I grew up and moved away and never thought of it until I tried to go plastic free. I realized that this  was  exactly the kind of shop I needed right now. Of course I would have to provide my own plastic free bags  but….enough said. I eagerly returned to the precinct of my youth, Stretford it was, only to find the shop had shut up and gone.

So began the research quest….  and in conclusion, yes such shops still exist but they are bloody hard to track down. They go under a variety of names including Weigh & Save Scoop & Save Weigh House Weigh Inn. The  company  that supplies the products does not have a list of outlets they deliver to (!) but can help you set up a shop if you are interested. As far as I can tell, these shops operate as individuals. They are extremely idiosyncratic and vary greatly in presentation and  range.  Some go the whole hog with corperate green and yellow displays and a whole lot of stuff to choose from, others a are little more than a few dusty bins at the back of the shop.

Just a passing thought; I feel that this for want of a better word franchise are marketing themselves all wrong. They are presenting themselves as a way to save money and the whole shop screams budget from the ugly cardboard bins to the scrappy signage.  I think they should look at attracting the eco customer by installing better dispensers, promoting waste free shopping and using funkier imagary (see Wholefoods Market for inspiration).

Shops Reviews

Barmouth Good

Bridlington – good.

Brixam (grim but does pet food)

Croydon – great write up by Kake who gives this shop a very good press

Exeter – Devon Weigh CLOSED

Horsham – great write up by Kake

Invernes CLOSED

Kingsmouth Devon Free local delivery – spend £7.50 and we will deliver free – within a 7-mile radius of Kingsbridge. Great for bulk buys. Nice!




Worthing – closed

Emsworth in Hampshire  – Pantry Weigh. Thanks to Emma for this info “There’s a small shop called Pantry Weigh in Emsworth in Hampshire


Loose Food Fill lists all the shops (not just the above) that sell  loose, food of the kind that normally comes plastic packaged ie rice, pasta and salt.


Take your own plastic free bags and refillable pots.

Find more plastic free stuff  with  the  A-Z plastic free index


Snact in compostable packaging

Snacks… so good when trekking, so hard to source plastic free. The best we have is loose nuts as sold at Lidles,  Until now!

Take a look at Snact. Fighting food waste and plastic pollution and making some fine tasty vegan goodness while they are at it.

They “make snacks from surplus produce. That’s produce that would otherwise be thrown away for being too big, too small, too ugly, or simply too abundant. Tonnes of perfectly good fruit and vegetables get rejected before reaching shop shelves in the UK. We turn that surplus into healthy snacks that contribute to one of your five a day.

Already like them but here’s the really good stuff. “fruit jerky will now be available in 100% home compostable packaging – the first of its kind in the UK!”

Our new innovative packaging, developed by Israeli start-up TIPA, is just as durable and impermeable as ordinary plastic – but it biologically decomposes within just 180 days and becomes a fertiliser for soil, behaving similarly to an orange peel.

Currently they do 3 flavours
Apple & Mango
A full and juicy flavour combining the natural sweetness of mango and tartness of apples.
Apple, Blueberry & Banana
A guaranteed crowd-pleaser with the deep flavour of blueberry and a subtle hint of banana sweetness.
Apple & Raspberry
Naturally sweet, tangy & punchy, just like you’d expect raspberries to be.

All are
100% fruit
Vegan & gluten free
No additives or preservatives
Less than 65kcal per bag
Made in the UK
In home compostable packaging. That means you can compost the wrapper at home!


You can find out more about Snact and buy bars here

More About The Snacks

Hand made on a family farm in Kent with whole fresh fruit sourced predominantly from British surplus produce, it is vegan, gluten free, low calorie, and counts towards your five a day. We don’t use any concentrates, additives, or preservatives, just 100% fruit.

Until they went BANANAS
Their new banana based bar will be out soon. Congratulations on raising the money to do this “Bananas are the most popular fruit in the world, but also one of the most wasted. We want to stop 1.4m bananas going to waste every day by turning them into awesome food waste-fighting delicious banana bars – or if we may: the best bars on and for the planet!”

More About The Packaging

Tipa have developed a a bio- plastic which I take to mean made with plants. It is compostable and meets composting standards. “Tipa’s products, compounds and films comply with EU 13432 and ASTM D6400 standards and are certified for both home and industrial composting through the OK Compost mark by the Vincotte institute. Tipa’s materials also meet food contact regulation requirements in Europe and the US.”  And they say it can be composted at home.

Composting Plastic At Home
FYI While most agree that some  plastics are indeed compostable, many say that they can only composted in large scale municipal schemes. I have used and composted a number of compostable plastic products 

Biodegradable, Compostable Plastics

What is biodegradable? Biodegradable products break down through a naturally occurring microorganism into simple, stable compounds which can be absorbed into the ecosystem. More about biodegrading here

What is compostable? To be classed compostable, items must biodegrade within a certain time (around the rate at which paper biodegrades), and the resulting biomass must be free of toxins, able to sustain plant life and be used as an organic fertilizer or soil additive. Read more about compostable plastics here


Chocolates and Sweets

I don’t care if the lady loves milk tray, she’s not getting a box of chocks from me. Not with that plastic wrapping, plastic cover sheet and plastic sweet tray.

Before you call me hard hearted there is a plastic free alternative.


There are shops out there selling British and Belgium chocolates loose.  You can buy a separate, cardboard box to put them in or you could make your own packaging.

Chocolate Bars pfree sweets Tesco chocolate

And there is always chocolate wrapped in foil and cardboard. Tescos do some wrapped in cardboard and foil.

Original Beans who sell  their chocolate in certified compostable packaging.

If handing some one a big slab of chocolate seems a bit blunt, you could tart it up by turning it into something else. Check out the marbled minty things made by Jen.


If the loose chocolates are too expensive you can buy other kinds of sweets from jars – for mothers day my  mum got two ounces of liquorice torpedo’s in a paper bag from Queensgate Market. Huddersfield.
Tescos and Ikea have a pick and mix stand where you can get chocolate beans ( smarties), and other sweets unwrapped and loose.

Every time I have been to any of the above, they have had paper bags but you may want to take your own plastic-free bag to be sure.



Ice Cream

I given up  ice cream in plastic tubs and had had to cut the ice cream in  paper tubs that are plastic lined.  No Haagan das, no Ben and Jerries, no chunky monkey, sigh!

Thank heavens for the Dearne Lea Ice Cream & Tea Room – open 10.30 to 5 daily Barkhouse Farm, Barkhouse Lane, Shelley, Huddersfield

This working farm has its own cows ( you are welcome to see them being milked) and makes it own ice cream. Its pretty good. sadly they won’t sell it to me in my own compostable plastic containers!

I have been trying to make my own but so far it has not been a success.

I can get ice cream cones from Thorntons in Huddersfield precinct… and of course the ice cream man.