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Education and law enforcement will solve gum litter problem, says industry body

By Jane Byrne , 06-May-2010
Last updated on 06-May-2010 at 17:31 GMT

Effective enforcement of litter laws coupled with consumer education programmes rather than costly clean ups is the only sustainable approach to chewing gum litter, claims the Irish gum litter task force (GLT), which includes members of the chewing gum industry as well as regulatory bodies.

“As a nation we need to clean up our littering habits, but paying for clean ups is not a long-term sustainable solution to the litter problem,” said Paul Kelly, director of GLT member, Food and Drink Industry Ireland (FDII), in response.

His comments follow a recent call from Irish campaign group Irish Business Against Litter (IBAL) urging a levy on chewing gum packs in Ireland to help fund cleaning costs of gum removal, and it also maintained that such a tax could also serve to accelerate industry research into viable biodegradable forms of chewing to erase the gum litter problem.

IBAL also argues that industry backed anti-litter campaigns are not working as consumers continue to dispose of gum irresponsibly.

But Kelly told ConfectioneryNews.com that the GLT is recommending that its education awareness campaign continues in order to build on the significant progress made to date and that the group is awaiting a decision on this from the Irish minister for the environment, John Gormley.

Campaign gains

The GLT claims that its campaign aims to change consumer’s behaviour with regard to the disposal of gum rather than implementing short-term solutions that do not address the underlying problem of irresponsible disposal. It said that independent research and evaluation of its campaign activity show the its effectiveness of it to date.

The results, said the GLT, demonstrate that the perception of chewing gum as litter increased from 79 per cent in 2007 to 89 per cent in 2009, while last year, 59 per cent of survey participants claimed that a GLT poster made them stop dropping gum on the street or was very/fairly likely to make them stop compared to 52 per cent in 2008.

Fifty-one per cent of survey participants claimed that in 2008, enforcement officers issuing fines had already made them stop dropping gum or were very or fairly likely to make them stop dropping gum. In 2009 the comparable figure was 65 per cent, continued the GLT.

GLT membership

Members of the GLT include representatives of the chewing gum industry; Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government; Food and Drink Industry Ireland; Department of Education and Science; ECO UNESCO; local authority representatives and environmental government agencies.

This publication recently reported on a study in the journal Food and Chemical Toxicology which showed that the polymer Rev 7, produced by UK-based manufacturer Revolymer, contains a hydrophilic component that renders it non-adhesive to surfaces often littered with gum such as such as pavements, clothing, carpets and furniture.

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