Receive our newsletter - data-led analysis, original reporting and insights
Community / Public space

A start-up is using pink plastic bubbles to harvest Londoners' unwanted chewing gum

As a Londoner, you get used to random items appearong on the streets. Electric guitars installed in half an upturned boat, say. Or a giant rubber duck floating menacingly down the Thames

Of late, though, we’ve noticed a more permanent addition to London’s street furniture: bright pink baubles affixed to signs and lampposts. Here’s one now:

Image: Gumdrop ltd.

The bubbles, it turns out, are there to collect our chewing gum: passerby drop their gum into the bin, and the company then regularly empties them. For the true gum-recycling afficionado, Gumdrop also makes small gum-collecting bobbles for your keyring


The thinking behind these “Gumdrops” is twofold: first, they’re there to stop us dropping our gum on the street and thereby creating with what mayor Boris Johnson once used his Telegraph column to call a “monstrous plague of chewing gum” on the city streets.

Tests of the Gumdrops’ efficacy imply that they do actually work: a trial on London’s Villiers Street manged to reduce gum litter by 40 per cent, which is a good deal better than nothing. According to the Local Government Association, the average piece of gum costs 3p to buy but up to £1.50 to remove (usually with one of these cool gum steamer machines). Removal costs UK local governments around £60m in total every year

The company’s second mission is to recycle the chewed gum (no, really). A sign next to one of the balls reads:

Put your waste gum in a GUMDROP and we will recycle your gum into a new material which can then be used to make new GUMDROPs and other plastic products. 

Product designer Anna Ballus, who founded the company in 2008, proudly states that this is the first “closed loop” gum recycling system. Good on her – but that doesn’t really surprise us.
This article is from the CityMetric archive: some formatting and images may not be present.