The chewing gum you don’t mind stuck to your shoe

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Media caption Chewing gum under your shoe is normally annoying — but these soles are made from recycled chewing gum

British designer Anna Bullus is on a mission to reuse chewing gum into useful objects, cleaning our streets in the process.

More than £ 14bn is used on chewing gum around the world each year, but a lot of that will gum will end up stuck to the terrain.

Gum could be the second most common type of street litter box after cigarette materials.

In the UK, councils spend about £ 50m each year cleaning up the particular mess.

But Ould – had an idea. What if the sticky stuff could actually be recycled plus turned into useful objects?

Image caption Anna Bullus teaches schoolchildren regarding sustainability at The Design Museum working in london

About 10 years ago, she began task management looking at kerbside litter. She analyzed random samples, looking at things like sharp packets and cigarette butts. The girl then tried to figure out which components could be recycled.

“One of the litters I found was a part of chewing gum and as a designer I used to be completely amazed there was nothing really being done to recycle this, ” she said.

Researching the chemistry of gum, she discovered that its main component, the gum base, is commonly an artificial rubber, a type of polymer similar to plastic material.


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Image caption Councils in the UK spend hundreds of thousands cleaning gum off the streets along with specialist equipment

“It’s called polyisobutylene, inch explains Anna, “the same things you find in the inner tube associated with bicycle wheels. ”

It is obtained from petrochemicals, which are processed from fossil fuels like crude oil.

She realised that gum, even once it has been finished along with, is a versatile and potentially helpful material.

Gathering gum

But how can you persuade people to donate their chewing gum – instead of carelessly tossing this on to the street?

Included in her strategy, Anna created vivid pink, bubble-shaped bins specially to get disposing of gum called Gumdrop, which may be hung at head-height.

These bins are by themselves made of recycled chewing gum. A message close to the bins explains that any kind of gum collected will be recycled straight into new objects.

Image caption The particular bright bins are themselves made from used chewing gum

But would gum-chewers utilize them?

The University associated with Winchester was one of the first places to register to use the bins. Around almost eight, 000 people live and focus on its campus and the authorities wished to keep it clean of gum litter box.

It adopted the twin-pronged strategy to tackle the problem.

It installed 11 associated with Anna’s special bins and to strengthen the message that gum could be recycled if disposed of responsibly, this gave out hundreds of coffee mugs made of recycled gum to first-year students.

“Students gives the cup a sniff to check on it didn’t smell of great or bubble gum, ” recalls Liz Harris, the university’s environment officer.

“It’s since so much of the chewing gum sold on benefit street is a polymer [so it] can be used to make new products.

‘When people have it, it’s a really nice moment. ”

Eighteen months afterwards, the university noticed a fall in gum litter and is growing the scheme.

Image caption A normal cup contains 42 pieces of utilized chewing gum

Heathrow Airport also ran the three-month trial which it mentioned led to a “noticeable improvement” plus saved it £ 6, 500 in cleaning costs. Great Traditional western Railway has installed the receptacles in more than 25 of its train stations and is rolling out the particular scheme further.

Within each case, the bins failed to suddenly solve the problem of chewing gum litter, but they did seem to start to change people’s behaviour.

Moulding gum

Another challenge for Anna had been to find industrial partners willing to reuse old gum – something totally novel.

She ultimately persuaded a recycling plant within Worcester to get on board. It takes the girl bins and filters out unwanted materials, like paper or sweet packages, before grinding it into parts and then compounds this with other plastic polymers.

The particular proportion in the mixture varies, yet Anna says each object the girl makes contains a minimum of 20% gum.

At a plastic rounds specialist in Leicester called Ruby Valley, which normally makes security alarm casings, Anna creates her developer objects.

Image caption The particular gum mixture is heated to some high temperature before being expelled within an injection machine

Here, the mixture that contains the old chewing gum is put into a good injection moulding machine. It is warmed and then ejected as a paste, which may be moulded into new objects since it cools.

“There’s simply no difference [from] the same polypropylene material that it’s based towards, the processing temperatures and guidelines are all identical, ” says Brett Nixon, a manager at the place.

“When you are dealing with the finished product, you do have a while to adjust to the fact that this has experienced somebody’s mouth previously.

‘But once you get over that anxiety it’s easy. By recycling this and giving it another lease associated with life it’s helping the environment, they have an absolutely fantastic idea. ”

Industry response

The UK Parliament has regarded imposing taxes on chewing gum businesses if they do not do more in order to combat gum litter.

Anna’s project has been given economic support from Wrigley, one of the biggest manufacturers. It also provides her along with surplus material from its Plymouth stock to add to her supply.

Alex Hunter-Dunn, a spokesman just for Wrigley, explained why the company shells the project.

“Gumdrop is a really creative plus innovative way to get people reliably disposing of their gum and binning it. We fundamentally believe that conduct change is the only long-term eco friendly solution to tackle the issue and we are extremely much behind that. ”

Other approaches are being attempted to beat the scourge of chewing gum litter.

Image caption Gum is made from a synthetic rubber, a flexible material

Researchers have worked on a synthetic gum that is biodegradable and will wash from the streets more easily, which is also the case with the organic chewing gum, made from Chicle chewing gum native to Central America, with a small market.

However in the current market, dominated by artificial, non-biodegradable gum, Anna thinks the girl method is the best option on the table.

“I do believe that through correct design, ” she says, “we can actually change the way people act. ”

Follow Dougal Shaw on Tweets @dougalshawbbc

You can learn more about recycling chewing gum within the latest People Fixing the World podcasting from the BBC Globe Service