CHEWING gum is proving a sticky issue in Leamington town centre.
Environmental change organisation Clean up Britain – which launched its ‘Now or Never’ campaign earlier this year – counted nearly 9,000 pieces of discarded gum along the 150 metre stretch of the Parade between Warwick Street and Regent Street.
Spokesman John Read said: “I think we underestimated how bad it is. It took a long time to remove all the gum from the area we did – it looked like some of it had been there forever. It will definitely be some challenge to clean the entire Parade. But we are determined to make it the first chewing gum free street in the UK. It’s Leamington’s main thoroughfare and we hope it will reflect well on the town.
“We certainly got some positive feedback from people who seemed really interested in what we were doing as it’s not something they see often.”
To remove the gum the team trialled new steam clean technology which is the first of its kind to be used in Britain. The machine blasted water at the gum, and uses just one litre an hour compared to 14 litres used by regular removal machines.
And using the new technology is also significantly cheaper – working out at just a penny per piece of gum instead of 50p.
Mr Read added the group would be ‘gently trying to persuade’ Warwick District Council, which is not obligated to clean up chewing gum, to invest in the machine.
As well as lobbying council chiefs, the group has a stark warning for those who drop their gum on the ground.
Mr Read added: “We’re aiming to stop people dropping it, it’s anti social behaviour which not only costs money but at it’s worst it can kill dogs.
“Freshly dropped chewing gum in particular is extremely toxic to dogs because they react to the sweetening agent xylitol.
“It has a lot of negative associations but that will be one of our main reasons to encourage people to stop dropping it and we will be putting posters up to remind them.”
The Now or Never campaign was originally launched in Leamington on a year-long trial basis, although the group has decided to extend the trial to two years.
It is aimed at changing the behavior of those who thoughtlessly discard rubbish.
As well as tackling chewing gum, the project is encouraging businesses to pledge to reduce plastic and packaging output, and has placed a number of graphic images showing wildlife injured by rubbish items, around town.
Organisers are also planning to educate children in district primary schools across through interactive quizzes and presentations.