£10m Chewing Gum Task Force to clean up high streets

Major chewing gum producers, brought together by the government, have signed up to a new £10m partnership to remove gum litter from the nation’s high streets, the Environment Minister has announced.

The scheme, including GlaxoSmithKline, Mars Wrigley and Perfetti Van Melle, and managed by independent charity Keep Britain Tidy, will see gum firms invest up to £10m over the next five years to help reduce gum litter.

The government said chewing gum litter is a blight on towns and cities and wastes millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money every year, with the annual clean up cost estimated at £7m.

Around 87% of England’s streets are stained with gum, according to research by Keep Britain Tidy.

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, with previous pilots reducing gum littering by up to 64%.

Littering is a criminal offence and the government has already empowered local authorities by increasing on-the-spot penalties for offenders to £150, rising to up to £2,500 if convicted in court.

The government is seeking powers in the Environment Bill to ensure that enforcement powers are used with a high degree of professionalism, whether by council staff or private contractors, and to place improved enforcement guidance on a firm statutory footing.

The Task Force is part of the government’s new strategy to support the evolution and regeneration of high streets across the country.

This includes 15 Town Deals, totalling £335m, to fund community regeneration projects, the transformation of derelict buildings and communities being given the chance to own local pubs, theatres, sports grounds and corner shops.

Commenting, Environment Minister, Rebecca 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.”

Chief Executive of Keep Britain Tidy, Allison Ogden-Newton added:

“Keep Britain Tidy are delighted to be working with Defra [Department for Food, Environment and Rural Affairs] and the chewing gum industry to clean up gum from our streets and critically stop it being dropped in the first place.”

The Chewing Gum Task Force forms part of wider government action to tackle litter and protect the environment and will also have the opportunity to share best practice and research in gum and litter prevention, such as cleaning up, education and biodegradability.

The ‘Keep it, Bin it’ anti-litter campaign, supported by Defra and funded by Mars Wrigley, encourages people to dispose of their litter responsibly, calling time on excuses for littering and telling people to keep hold of their rubbish until they find a bin.

As well as this, the government has also outlined their intention to explore regulatory options to tackle the issue of discarded cigarette butts, which make up 66% of all littered items.

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