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Defra unveils £10 million gum litter removal scheme

Major chewing gum producers are to invest a total of £10 million into a scheme tasked with the removal of gum litter from Britain’s high streets.

The government initiative will be managed by environmental charity Keep Britain Tidy and will see support from companies such as Mars Wrigley, GlaxoSmithKline and Perfetti Van Melle across the next five years.

Chewing gumThe annual clean-up cost of chewing gum litter is estimated at around £7 million, with 87 per cent of England’s streets being stained with the refuse, according to research carried out by Keep Britain Tidy.

Defra states that the companies’ investment will be used to assuage this issue, with the funding allocated to cleaning up historic gum litter staining, as well as developing behavioural interventions to encourage the public to properly dispose of their used gum. Defra asserts that previous pilots of similar schemes have seen gum littering being reduced by up to 64 per cent.

The Chewing Gum Task Force, tasked with the clean-up operation, will form part of broader government intervention to tackle litter. The Task Force will also share successful removal practices, as well as research into gum-cleansing and litter prevention.

Beyond the scheme, Defra stresses that littering is a criminal offence, with the Government having already empowered local authorities to increase the penalty issued to offenders to up to £150, reaching £2,500 if convicted, in order to tackle the issue. The Government is also seeking powers in the Environment Bill in order to ensure that enforcement powers are used with a ‘high degree of professionalism.’

The government-backed ‘Keep it, Bin it’ anti-litter campaign, supported by Defra and funded by Mars Wrigley, will continue to provide anti-littering education, through encouraging the general public to dispose of their litter ‘responsibly’ and urging citizens to keep hold of refuse until a bin is found.

Environment Minister, Rebecca Pow, commented: “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.”

Jonny Briscoe, Managing Director at Perfetti Van Melle (PVM UK), stated: “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.”

Allison Ogden-Newton, Chief Executive of Keep Britain Tidy, said: “Keep Britain Tidy are delighted to be working with Defra and the chewing gum industry to clean up gum from our streets and critically stop it being dropped in the first place.”