GOMMA is a material exploration that critically questions consumer behaviour and material flows in the contemporary food industry and urban environment.
Components of chewing gum imply gum base, sweeteners, plasticisers, flavourings and colourants. The gum base may contain up to 46 different chemicals, including synthetic polymers derived from crude oil such as paraffin and petroleum waxes as well as styrene-butadiene, vinyl acetate, and polyethylene polymers to maximise elasticity. These components are non-nutritive, non-digestible, water-insoluble and foremost non-degradable. More often than not chewing gum is being dumped to pollute urban environments by the thousands. Even after long periods of time exposed to the elements, the chewing gum can effectively be restored to its former elastic state.
What would be possible if we reused the material instead? And what would happen if we changed our consumption behaviour and our waste disposal awareness?
Discarded chewing gums made of non-degradable, petroleum-based synthetic polymers litter urban areas. Their existence has become an integrated feature of the cityscape worldwide, frequently found on the seats of public transport, sprinkling the pathways or sticking to monuments. Over time, the gum paste hardens and is difficult to remove from surfaces, which is why municipalities spend large amounts of public money on its removal. Some countries have started to fine these illicit public disposals or have altogether banned the selling of chewing gums.
The chewing gums, the material base used for GOMMA, was recovered, amongst other sources, from the historic landmark of the Berlin Wall at Potsdamer Platz in Berlin, which is now greatly covered in chewing gum. This phenomenon started several years ago, distorting the memorial value of the site.
GOMMA is exploring the potential that this material has due to the properties of the elastomers that make up the chewing gum base. Once the matter is heated in a warm water bath, it can be cleaned and easily reshaped. Through this process, the material loses its age-related impurities and discolourations and even recovers its fresh menthol smell. At this point in the process, colourants can be added. Manual kneading and threading techniques are then used to produce a smooth, malleable dough which can be transformed into weavable strings. Letting the material air dry in intervals reduces its stickiness and makes it easier to handle. The dried gum strings can subsequently be woven or crocheted. Besides the methods of textile manufacturing, other processes such as cutting, moulding and casting are also applicable.
As previously mentioned, the material's properties allow it to be recycled several times by relooping the heating, cleaning and shaping processes.
Recovered chewing gum, natural pigment
Recycling chewing gum (Video)
MaDe Finalists (Article)