Chewing gum, worse than any litter!

We all have many things to cope with when embarking on a shopping trip. Disabled people have a few more things than most when navigating the High Street, like other shoppers busy doing their own thing, an abundance of street furniture, bits of litter, but worse of all? Chewing gum.

poole high st

Stop it at source?

Chewing gum manufacturers must help pay for the multi-million pound cost of removing discarded gum from streets say councils, who warn the problem is becoming “a plague on the country’s pavements”.

For anyone who has had to scrape gum of the sole of their shoe, wheel of their wheelchair or off their glove, a solution has been a long time coming!

Food companies are being told they should help shoulder the costs of removing discarded chewing gum from pavements and create products which decompose once spat out.

The Local Government Association (LGA), which represents almost 400 councils in England and Wales, is calling for gum giants to pay part of the £60 million annual removal cost. That figure would enable councils to fill in over a million potholes. The LGA wants a ‘producer pays’ principle to apply, which means manufacturers would contribute to the cost of ensuring proper disposal.

The LGA 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. Gum manufacturers should also be switching to biodegradable and easier-to-remove chewing gum.

gum on the path

Singapore had a different idea

Lee Kuan Yew is famed as the man who turned Singapore from a small port into a global trading hub. But he also insisted on tidiness and good behaviour – and personified the country’s ban on chewing gum.

The ban remains one of the best-known aspects of life in Singapore, along with the country’s laws against litter, graffiti, jaywalking, spitting, expelling “mucous from the nose” and urinating anywhere but in a toilet. (If it’s a public toilet, you are legally required to flush it.)

When Singapore became independent in 1965 it was a tiny country with few resources, so Lee, the country’s first prime minister, hatched a survival plan. This hinged on making the city state a “first-world oasis in a third-world region”. Before very long, Singapore was outstripping other developed countries in terms of its cleanliness, clipped lawns, and efficient transport system. The Cambridge-educated Lee, it seems, was aiming for perfection.

Since 2004 – as a result of the US-Singapore Free Trade Agreement – pharmacists and dentists have also been allowed to sell “therapeutic” gum, to customers with a medical prescription. This includes standard sugar-free gum. You’d still face a steep fine for spitting out the chewed gum and leaving it as litter.

Is a ban sensible?

Many would say ‘Yes!’ others argue is smacks of a ‘nanny state’ something often aimed at Singapore. The evidence shows that a ban works, few people chew gum in Singapore. But for local council’s the cost is a large draw on local funds.

One man is making a positive use of discarded gum, by making the streets of London a little more colourful by painting miniature pictures on pieces of discarded chewing gum.

For the past ten years, Ben Wilson has spent days on end scouring pavements for discarded gum that he can bring to life. Mr Wilson has created more than 8,000 works of art this way – each one photographed and catalogued for his archive. A picture can take anything from two hours to three days to complete.

As well as producing his own compositions he takes commissions from members of the public. The Royal Society of Chemistry recently asked him to paint depictions of each of the 118 known elements. His work has even made him a minor celebrity in South Korea after he appeared on television there!

Below are some images of Ben’s fine work:



This is Ben at work:

Ben Wilson at work



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