Press Coverage

Local students target gum litter

Kings Lynn Council

Chewing-gum litter is a noticeable problem in over 90% of Britain's town and city centres. The cost of its removal has been estimated to run to over £100m per year. Yet still chewers drop their gum with little regard for their surroundings. Not only is specialist removal expensive but it also does nothing to change the behaviour of people dropping their gum. Now the Council is testing a new initiative that is proving successful elsewhere in the country.

Local students, Hannah Whiting, Tayla Collison and Ruby Crome, who attend King Edward VII secondary school, brought the GumTarget Initiative to the attention of the Council as part of their WHAM project.

WHAM is a competition that encourages teams of up to four young people to get together and make a real difference in the communities where they live.

For students between 11 and 16 years old, the WHAM project offers a unique opportunity for them to use their imagination and creative energies to the full. WHAM is organised by Norfolk PACT (Partners Against Crime Taskforce) and supported by Broadland Community Safety Partnership and Marsh. WHAM projects are about making a difference to your local environment and working with your local community. They can be about making places cleaner or safer or simply better places in which to live.

Cllr Brian Long, the Council's Cabinet member for the Environment, said: 'We work hard to keep the town clean and tidy. We have recently put a huge effort into removing chewing gum deposits. This is expensive and time consuming. The idea behind the GumTarget is that the gum never reaches the ground and therefore the costs of removal can be reduced. We are going to support a trial in the bus station area and if successful we may consider extending it through the town centre.'

The girls identified the opportunity and made contact with the supplier to find out how the GumTargets worked. They then set about raising the funds to purchase a GumTarget by doing car washes in the local area.

Chris Bamfield, Head of Leisure and Public Space at the Council, added: 'I was contacted by the girls who wanted to try to help make the town a cleaner place by reducing chewing gum litter. I thought this was a great idea and wanted to offer full support. It is great to see our young people taking such and interest in their environment.'

Cllr Long continued: 'We thought this was a great idea, but felt that one GumTarget might not have much of an impact, so we agreed to fund a further five for the initial trial period, to support the girls' initiative.'

The GumTarget Initiative encourages responsible disposal of used chewing gum. The GumTarget is made from powder-coated pressed steel and fixed to existing posts. The front of the GumTarget is covered with a printed sheet which carries a campaign of messages and images to capture the attention of the gum chewer and encourage responsible disposal. Instead of waiting until chewers drop their gum and then sending in the cleaners, chewers are encouraged to stick their gum onto a GumTarget where it is contained and then removed and disposed of before it becomes a problem on the street.

The GumTarget approach has two main benefits - the messages carried on the front of these gum disposal boards work like an advertising campaign, raising awareness of gum as litter and encouraging chewers to take positive and appropriate action. Secondly, the GumTargets are conveniently located in areas where chewers typically drop their gum. These 'hot spots' can easily be recognised when you look at the build-up of gum on the streets and include taxi ranks and bus stops, outside pubs and clubs and by food outlets.

'By passing the responsibility for disposal back to the chewer rather than simply clearing up their littered gum we will raise awareness of this problem and reduce the amount of gum deposits on the streets,' said Ian Kenyon of Meteora Limited, the company behind the GumTarget. 'We will be running a trial to see how effective the GumTargets are. We hope the public will demonstrate their support by sticking their used gum to the GumTarget. Should the trial be successful we hope the Council will install GumTargets in other locations.

' Many local authorities have already begun to see the long-term benefit in using this alternative approach. Bournemouth, Luton, Ealing, Swansea and Stevenage are amongst those authorities, and support for the GumTarget Initiative is growing with many councils launching new trials in the last month.

'We have seen a dramatic reduction in the amount of gum on the paving in the town centre,' offered Jon Maddox of Luton Borough Council. 'The GumTargets have made a huge difference to people's attitudes to dropping their gum, and we have been able to reduce the amount of specialist cleansing since we launched this initiative. We are very pleased with the results.'

'Swansea is significantly cleaner since we introduced the GumTargets,' said Nicola Parkinson of the City Centre Management Team. 'We are shocked by how much they have been used.'

The Borough Council of King's Lynn and West Norfolk will be running a trial to monitor the effect of the GumTargets in the bus station area of King's Lynn. The Council hopes to see good support from the public and local media with a view to extending their introduction.

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