The Government-backed “living bin” was launched by the Chewing Gum Action Group (CGAG) and Keep Britain Tidy on Tuesday (7 September), under the premise that consumers would find it unacceptable to drop gum at home.

By placing the pop-up lounge outside, and encouraging consumers to place their gum litter in its surroundings, CGAG hopes that it will challenge social norms as a means to reduce chewing gum litter on UK streets.

Keep Britain Tidy’s chief executive Allison Ogden-Newton said: “Littering is often seen as someone else’s fault and everyone else’s problem. For more than 10 years we’ve been committed to raising awareness of littered gum and using creative ways to get people to stop and think as part of CGAG. This latest idea is all about making people see their local streets as an extension of their own home, they don’t drop gum in their home, so why should they on the street?”

The Hackney-based initiative will be recorded and recreated as a short film to further drive the campaign. In total, 11 local authorities and partners across the UK will take part in the campaign, drawing on poster sites and Litter Lounges to raise awareness. Locations include Colchester, Corby, Harrow, Hounslow, Kensington and Chelsea, Maidstone, North Ayreshire, Oldham and Chester.

According to Defra data, one in four places in the UK still has unacceptable levels of litter. Recent research by Hackney council ahead of the campaign also reveals that chewing gum and gum staining form a big part of the ongoing litter problem. The research found that if every street in the borough is busy, up to 1.6 million pieces of gum would be dropped, adding up to nearly 20 million pieces annually.

Defra’s parliamentary undersecretary of state Lord Gardiner said: “It’s simple; dropping gum on the street is selfish and antisocial. The horrible stains left on pavements spoil streets up and down the country for everyone, and having to peel it off the sole of your shoe is disgusting. I hope this campaign makes the thoughtless minority who cause this problem think again and bin their gum.”

Here today, gum tomorrow

The Litter Lounges will act as the integral piece to Keep Britain Tidy’s 2016 campaign, which aims to build on the success established over the last 12 months. Working with the Chartered Institution of Wastes Management (CIWM), the 2015 campaign saw chewing gum litter reduce by 48% across participating areas.

Notable campaigns that led to the reduction includes CGAG’s work on Oxford Street, which saw every single piece of discarded chewing gum lit up with water-soluble fluorescent chalk. The charity Hubbub has also worked with Westminster Council to install giant cigarettes, voting ashtrays and music-playing poles to raise awareness of the amount of gum and cigarette butts littering the streets.

Last year, businesses and campaign groups, including McDonalds and Wrigley’s, backed a new Litter Manifesto calling on the Government to tackle the UK’s £1bn litter problem. Keep Britain Tidy, Clean Up Britain, and waste management company Veolia were also among the signatories.

Matt Mace

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