The Nationwide Battle Against Chewing Gum Litter

Businesses and Local Authorities spend thousands of pounds on branding, buildings and attractions, to encourage customers and footfall, yet they are marred by chewing gum litter. If you (like us and countless others before us), have fallen foul of stepping on chewing gum which has been carelessly discarded on the street, you will know of the aggravation that follows…. Gum on your carpets at home, on car mats (not to mention the mess it creates on the underside of your shoe)! Time is then wasted trying to clear it up, using any one of several methods to scrub, freeze and tease it off every surface.

Not only does gum litter make an area look downtrodden and unattractive, it has harmful effects on the environment too:
• Birds and other animals who ingest chewing gum, cannot digest it and sadly die as a result.
• Littered gum can also make its way into the food chain, and has been found in fish, and can cause an accumulation of toxins over time.
• Manufacturers who use flavouring isoamyl acetate (a bee pheromone) can disrupt bee behaviour when littering occurs.
If this isn’t enough to convince people to dispose of chewing gum properly, consider this – discarded gum is also a hotbed for bacteria – it’s all been in someone’s mouth after all – so it is even creating an unsanitary environment for us too.

Local Councils throughout the British Isles are taking up the challenge to not only clean up the mess it creates, but also on education to discourage littering. Chewing gum litter is the second most prolific form of littering after cigarette butts, an estimated 92% of urban paving stones have gum stuck on them. Prior to a recent technological development, this has resulted in Local Authority funds spent on many hours cleaning up the mess.

Worldwide, we humans chew about 560,000 tons of gum each year, a lot of which ends up on our streets. In the run up to the Olympic games in London 2012, Local Authorities encouraged visitors to the area by ensuring it was looking its best, cleaning up over 300,000 pieces of gum in the process. With the technology available at the time, it took over 3 months to complete, costing up to £2.30 per piece to clean.

Over the last few months, a new series of initiatives have commenced to help clean up our streets. Across Ireland, the Gum Litter Taskforce is campaigning to reduce gum litter by changing disposal behaviour. From Cork, to Dublin, Ennis and Bray, 27 local Councils are joining the country wide campaign and encourage people to “bin your gum when you’re done”. The campaign includes TV, print and online advertising as well as an educational program for children which includes actor led workshops supported by materials and tools to be integrated into lesson plans, with almost 40,000 students having taken part in the program.

Local Authorities in Scotland are also preparing their teams for battle against gum litter, through the charity Keep Scotland Beautiful initiative, and Londoners walking down Oxford Street have had gum litter highlighted in a rather unusual way, with yellow circles painted around each piece of gum on the pavement, hitting home the unsightly mess created on a daily basis. Cities and towns across the UK are keen to eradicate the problem from their streets.

Supporting these initiatives are technological developments in cleaning equipment, which have vastly reduced the cost of removing gum from public places & venues. Engineers at British owned company, Steam-e have designed and manufactured a unique, battery operated, gum removing machine, which uses an environmentally friendly solution based on sugar-beet to remove gum from all surfaces. When combined with the steam generated by the machine, it removes a piece of gum in seconds, maximising staff productivity and keeping operational costs down.

Co-Founder, Jared Brading of Steam E Limited says “we saw a need to really tackle the problem of gum litter in an environmentally friendly way. Our machines are not only effective, but they are less disruptive to public spaces when in operation.”

The ingenuity is not only in the battery which lasts up to 3 hours of constant operation, but in the generation of steam. Rather than heating up a container of water to create steam (similar to boiling a kettle – a method most steam cleaners use), it feeds the water based solution through to the nozzle and creates the steam there in less than 15 seconds after switching on. The result is less time wasted by employees waiting for the machine to be ready for use, and a more energy efficient machine which is both portable and requires only 1 person to operate it.

“You don’t have to cordon off streets, pump lots of water onto pavements or hire a team of 6 to operate machinery which needs to be hooked up to a power supply. The Steam-e Gum Remover makes light work of cleaning gum from any surface and with it being battery powered, it can be used anywhere, any time” Says Co-Founder Martin Whitbread.

The masterminds behind the invention ( pending) are providing support to Local Authorities, Rail Networks, Hotels, Restaurants and Shopping Centres across the Country, reducing the operating cost of gum removal to less than £0.01 per piece – that’s a huge saving against previous methods and makes gum removal a simple, quick and cheap operation which businesses and Councils can no longer ignore.

As part of Blaenau Gwent County Borough Council’s street cleansing priorities, they have purchased four Gum Removers from Steam-e to clean chewing gum. These will be used as part of the annual deep cleanse of Blaenau Gwent town centres including Abertillery, Tredegar, Blaina, Brynmawr, and Ebbw Vale. The gum removers are environmentally friendly and battery operated, which keeps inconvenience to members of the public at a minimum.

Cllr Garth Collier, Executive Member for Environment said: “The deep cleanse we are planning will make a real difference to the way our residents and visitors feel about where they live and work. Being free from gum litter means that our town centres will be clean and attractive places for people to visit and spend time. From a Councillor’s perspective, knowing we have been able to remove gum litter efficiently and effectively is key, and to do so in an environmentally friendly and safely way is reassuring.”

Joining forces with local Councils against the Nationwide battle currently being waged on gum litter, the team at Steam-e are supporting the clean-up by launching a challenge to businesses and members of the public to identify a place near them which they would like to see cleared of chewing gum litter. This could be outside a shop, building, monument or local attraction. Wherever you feel the worst offending areas are, take a picture and tell us why its important to you to see it cleaned up by sending it to our twitter account: @thesteam-e The team will pick 3 entrants and will visit the area (after obtaining permission) to clear the gum, returning an unloved public spaces & venues, back to a pleasant one.

Media Contact Details
Lindsey Hoyle, Steam-E Limited
Hampshire, United Kingdom
PR Fire 10 Broomfield Lane, Hale,
Altrincham, Cheshire, WA15 9AQ