London Borough of Westminster

Gum Facts


* From Daily Telegraph, March 2007

Coventry Street is probably the most heavily gum-blighted street in the UK. Westminster removed 70 blobs of gum per square metre - two and a half times the amount of gum on Oxford Street.

Cleaning Costs & Preventative Measures

Westminster has an annual £100,000 contract which involves the hire of a gum cleaning team and associated equipment to tackle Westminster's worst affected streets. This team uses a 100 C high pressure jet to get rid of the gum.

We estimate that to have a fully comprehensive gum cleaning programme to clean our 8.5 square miles would cost £9m a year. Our problem is compounded by the fact we have a daily influx of one million visitors a day in a relatively confined area.

In November 2006 Westminster City Council pioneered the use of a new treatment called Magicote to help prevent chewing gum from anchoring into pavements, and protect surfaces from other staining by forming a permeable membrane within the paving. The cost of the treatment works out at around £3 per square metre, costing a total of £7000 but will be effective for 3 years. The total cost of gum removal with the high pressure jet followed by the anti-stick coating is £6 per square metre.

Bio-degradable & Non-stick Gum

Westminster is actively supporting experimental field tests for chewing gums with non-stick and/or biodegradable formulations. It is on record as supporting the efforts of one such company, Revolymer, to bring such a product to market. The Council has also given Cadbury a demonstation of the Magicote treatment outside its Berkeley Square HQ, to coincide with the launch of its Trident chewing gum in February 2007.

Previous Lobbying

In January 2006 Westminster Council led a coalition of 20 towns and cities in an unprecedented appeal for the Government and industry to help tackle the national problem of chewing gum litter. The cross-party group of local authorities took out a full page advert in the Guardian newspaper demanding financial help to deal with the environmental blight, which costs councils millions of pounds a year in clean-up costs.

Westminster City Council wrote to the chief executives of both Wrigley’s and Cadbury’s asking them to take more responsibility for the environmental blight caused by chewing gum.

Westminstercouncil wanted the Government to follow the example of Ireland and threaten chewing gum companies with a tax to force them into paying more to clean up the mess left behind by their products.

In a Lords debate on Tuesday 31 October 2006 on proposals for a chewing gum tax Lord Selsdon graphically described the problem of gum litter as follows:

"It starts life in a wrapper with a nice notice on the outside 'please use this wrapper prior to disposal. It then enters the mouth where, mixed with saliva and often respiratory pathogens, and occasionally blood if you have recently been to a dentist for teeth cleaning, it is masticated and then given its exit in the form of excrement.

"This excrement is either spat on to the pavement or disposed of in other ways and carries with it certain dangers. As it hits the pavement, it is colloquially known as a 'gum turd'. This 'gum turd' may retain viruses and bacteria for as long as it is wet”