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Would a chewing gum ban clean up our streets?

A wall covered in chewing gum

Discarded gum makes a mess of our streets and it’s expensive to clean up. A chewing gum ban has been proposed in Milton Keynes, but is a ban the best way to keep our towns and cities tidy?

I don’t often chew gum, but when I do I always dispose of it carefully. Vivid memories of trying to remove gum from various shoes and clothes ensure I’d never consider throwing gum on the ground.

But it seems that many gum-chewers do just that, and the evidence is all around us. In Milton Keynes, the organisation After8 (created to improve the experience for visitors and residents) found 22 pieces of discarded gum in just one square foot of pavement.

That rather revolting discovery has led to After8 calling for a ban of chewing gum to be enforced. This would create potentially gum-free zones in public places like Xscape and the theatre district.

Chewing gum is classed as litter, so it’s already covered by the Environmental protection Act 1990 and the Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act. After8 presumably wants these laws to be more strictly enforced, so that gum throwers are more likely to face a fine.

The cost of chewing

The cost of cleaning up gum is massive, so a ban could save money for Milton Keynes in the long term. The charity Keep Britain Tidy estimates that the average cost of cleaning gum from a town centre is £20,000. To keep the streets clean, busy towns and cities probably need to spend that amount a few times a year.

But would a ban work if the sale of chewing gum isn’t stopped? After all, the ban in Singapore is helped by the selling and importing of chewing gum being prohibited. If there’s no gum available, enforcing a ban seems more straightforward.

Last time we spoke about chewing gum, you shared your ideas for solving the problem. And although some of you supported the idea of a ban, the most popular suggestion was to target the people who drop gum and change their attitude to litter. Community service for culprits was mentioned as a more suitable punishment than a fine.

There’s one solution that could make a big difference to the problem: biodegradable gum. Developed in Britain, Rev7 has recently gone on sale in Ireland. The gum is less sticky and can be cleaned from streets and clothes without needing chemicals. That seems like a gum-free step in the right direction to me.

Would you like to see chewing gum banned in public places?

Yes - it would keep our streets cleaner (77%, 835 Votes)

No - there are other ways to stop chewers littering (23%, 244 Votes)

Total Voters: 1,079

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richard says:
12 March 2013

From the chewing gum littering in my local streets – we need FAR MORE notices telling the public that they should take the gum home – in several languages – Just as we have MANY notices to dog owners about picking up poop – Both are equally against the law – but only one seems to be punishable. I have dogs – I pick up poop BECAUSE of the signs threatening £1000 fines – Not one sign about spitting – cigarettes – nose discharges – food wrappers – food – beds – chewing gum – paper – plastic bags – urination – vomit etc etc – all of which are disgusting but no notices except about dogs (the actual amount of poop littering the streets is minuscule (very very rare) in comparison to the rest.
When I was young I was taught to put chewing gum in the wrapper and take it home – To blow my nose in a handkerchief not on the floor – not to drop litter etc. Now apparently no one is taught such things – and – the councils do not act on this anti social behaviour


Try the new chewing gum by all means, but it will still be a problem if dropped inside buildings. I would like to see a ban on chewing gum in buildings – just as we have a ban on cigarette smoking.

It would be useful to interview the kids and adults who drop chewing gum and other litter to find out why they do this. I don’t even begin to understand why anyone can behave so antisocially.


That’s what confuses me – I just can’t imagine the mindset of anyone who thinks it’s ok to drop rubbish on the floor. Interviewing the litter bugs is a very good idea.


Gum defaces every pedestrian precinct in Europe. I would make every apprehended gum dropper clean up 10 sq. metres of pavement with their fingernails. The same goes for Graffiti. I drove from Leeds to Bulgaria and every publicly visible vertical surface en route was “adorned” with the output of spray cans. However, gum is longer lasting (we’re talking decades) and more difficult to remove.

David Hall says:
12 March 2013

I am presently in Singapore where there is a ban on chewing gum. There is not one mark on the pavements from discarded gum. The problem in UK is that people who spit gum out are couldn’t care less louts, and I am afraid to say that we have more than a fair share of them. Ban chewing gum. it is a small price to pay as it will dramatically clean up our streets, but we will still be left with the anti social mob who drop cigarette ends and all sorts of litter even when litter bins are at hand. The underclass will never care about the state of our streets.

jane says:
12 March 2013

Singapore is spotlessly clean of gum . They have a fine “fine” system that stops any littrring inclusive of gum


They ban them from the Metro too
….to prevent mindless morons from
holding up trains.


Within a few days of its opening any new or refurbished passageway in the London Underground is disfigured by the little spots of gum that have been compressed and blackened by a million shoes. I had never realised that gum chewing and irresponsible disposal were so prevalent. I have never actually seen anyone doing it but the sheer number of tell-tale blobs indicates an anti-social problem on an unmanageable scale. Enforcement would be virtually impossible so a ban is the only solution. Taxing gum would only lead to contraband and other criminal behaviour. I’m not sure there is any evidence that the chewing of gum is uniquely beneficial, whether for oral hygiene, for dental care, or for exercise of the mandible; perhaps though, if practised repetitively, it contributes to better mastication and thus is an aid to digestion.


Chewing gum is a really effective way to quit smoking.
I myself have quit smoking for over 5 years now, thanks to nicotene gum, and then switching to good old wrigley’s.

So many people use gum to help them quit smoking, and for that reason alone, I think that banning gum is a really bad idea.

Educating people to dispose of gum sensibly is the answer. What I do, is carry a pack of mini post-it notes around with me, I wrap the gum in those, and dispose of it when I next pass a suitable waste bin – simples.