It costs councils an estimated £60 million a year to remove discarded gum. The Local Government Association (LGA) has called for a “producer pays” principle to be introduced so that manufacturers are obliged to help shoulder some of the cost.
Coun Peter Box, LGA Environment spokesman and leader of Wakefield Council, which spends £140,000 a year on street cleaning, said: “Chewing gum is a plague on our pavements. It is a blight which costs councils a fortune to clean up and takes hours of hard work to remove. It’s ugly, it’s unsightly and it’s unacceptable.
“The UK gum industry is a multi-million pound business and we believe in the principle of the ‘polluter’ paying. The chewing gum giants should be making a substantial contribution to help with the sterling work that councils are doing in removing it.”
The average piece of gum costs about 3p to buy but around £1.50 - fifty times that price - to clean up, according to the LGA. Councils are also calling on producers to switch to a type which is biodegradable and easier to remove.
Although it is difficult to measure exactly how much gum removal costs the region’s councils, some of Yorkshire’s local authorities have backed the LGAs call.
Coun Jayne Dunn, Sheffield Council’s cabinet member for environment, recycling and Streetscene, said: “There is absolutely no need for people to drop chewing gum. It is disgusting and completely unnecessary. People should use the bins provided.”
In Hull, the council has partnered with the Chewing Gum Action Group in an attempt to tackle the issue. Coun Martin Mancey, Portfolio Holder for Energy City, said: “Chewing gum litter is a real nuisance that is costly and difficult to remove.”
Leeds Council spends £59,000 a year removing chewing gum. In the worst affected areas, there are around 300 pieces per square metre. It urged people to bin their gum rather than “spoil the city for everyone.”
Coun Mark Dobson, the council’s executive member responsible for cleaner, safer and stronger communities added: “In the current economic climate we must spend our limited budgets wisely and already collect over a tonne of litter from the city centre every day.”
Gum giant Wrigley said it “takes the issue of littered gum very seriously”. It has invested in programmes like the Chewing Gum Action Group to educate people to dispose of their chewing gum responsibly.
Coun Box added: “We acknowledge firms are contributing to litter prevention campaigns. However, given the size of the bill faced by councils in these tough economic times, this isn’t cutting the mustard.”