£10 million: The cost of clearing chewing gum on British streets

Prasun Sonwalkar/London
Filed on August 30, 2021

(Agencies file)

Nearly 87% of England’s streets are stained with gum.

The Boris Johnson government on Monday announced a £10 million partnership with major chewing gum producers to remove gum litter from British streets, where the annual clean-up cost to the taxpayer is estimated at £7 million.

Environment minister Rebecca Pow said the scheme, including Mars Wrigley, GlaxoSmithKline and Perfetti Van Melle and managed by independent charity organisation Keep Britain Tidy, will see the gum companies invest up to £10 million over the next five years to help reduce gum litter.

Nearly 87 per cent of England’s streets are stained with gum, according to research by the charity organisation.

The investment, starting later this year, will be used to clean up historic gum litter staining and use behavioural interventions to encourage people to bin their gum. Previous pilots have reduced gum littering by up to 64 per cent, officials said.

Littering is a criminal offence, with local authorities empowered to increase on-the-spot penalties for offenders to £150, rising to up to £2,500 if convicted in court.

Pow said: “The stains of discarded chewing gum are a blight on our communities, spoiling our streets and wasting millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money. This new scheme means chewing gum producers are not only helping to clean up towns and cities as they welcome people back to our high streets, but crucially taking action to prevent people littering in the first place”.

“We are committed to building back better and greener and this commitment to making town centres a more attractive and inviting place is a key part of our long-term strategy to breathe new life into our communities”, she added.

Jonny Briscoe of Perfetti Van Melle said: “As an organisation serious about corporate responsibility, Perfetti Van Melle is committed to help with the clean-up of Britain’s streets and to educate consumers about the importance of responsible gum disposal”.

The partnership is among several measures intended to improve the environment in Britain. A new Environment Bill in parliament includes powers to introduce a Deposit Return Scheme for drinks containers, which will recycle billions more plastic bottles and stop them going to landfill.

The Johnson government will also introduce a plastic packaging tax from April 2022 on plastic packaging which does not meet a minimum threshold of at least 30 per cent recycled content, to encourage greater use of recycled plastic and protect the environment.

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