Chewing it over
If you live in a significant town or a city – unless that city happens to be Singapore – and if you look down on the pavement as you walk along it, you will see a large number of white marks or blotches. Mostly you won’t pay too much attention to these, but I have just been told that the average pedestrian in Dublin will, on an average day, step on about 550 of these. What you are stepping on is chewing gum that has been spat out on to the pavement.
Removing chewing gum from the pavement is not easy. It requires the use of jet spray and chemical treatment, and on average it costs 12c to remove each piece of gum (where the gum itself costs less than 5c to buy). It has been estimated that on London’s Oxford Street you will generally find 300,000 pieces of gum on the pavements. The cost of removing these is £35,000, and this has to be done five times a year. And that’s just Oxford Street. Across the UK as a whole, the British government spends £150 million each year to remove chewing gum.
On Dublin’s Grafton Street there will usually be 150,000 pieces of gum that need to be removed, and all over Ireland it is estimated that, annually, 500 tons of gum are spat on to the country’s streets.
Chewing gum has become part of western culture, and it is not reasonable to think that we can ban it (Singapore notwithstanding). But the public have to be educated to understand the costs they are creating when they dispose of it in this way, and on the spot fines should be applied here. It’s time to re-educate gum users. I’ll do my bit. Next time I see someone spit out their gum I shall draw their attention to the implications. If I am in a position to do so, I’ll report on the responses I get…