A tax on chewing gum is being considered by ministers hoping to stop people throwing it away in the street.
UK councils are calling for a chewing gum tax to cover the estimated £60 million a year cost of scraping the sticky stuff from our town and city streets.
The Local Government Association, which represents hundreds of local councils, says that cash-strapped councils cannot keep up with the sheer amount of gum on pavements.
Standard street sweeping carts, which manage to deal with carelessly discarded cigarette ends and sweet wrappers, struggle with the gum.
So the LGA wants customers to pay a tax on every packet which could then be used to pay for the pressure washers and other hard hitting gum removing equipment.
Action is a long time coming for veteran Birmingham City Council Peter Douglas Osborn who called for a complete ban, or failing that a tax, back in 2002 after seeing Birmingham Cathedral square covered in a carpet of gum.
At the time he said: “People who deface paving stones with patches of gum should be fined £500.”
He also remains concerned about health and safety implications with gum getting stuck in wheelchairs, causing people to trip or even pass on saliva-related infections.
“I am delighted that the LGA is now lobbying Government for the tax to cover the £60 million a year councils spend on cleaning up this menace.”
Councillor Martin Tett, the LGA’s environment spokesman, said: “Chewing gum is a plague on our pavements. It’s ugly, it’s unsightly and it’s unacceptable.
“At a time when councils face considerable ongoing funding pressures, this is a growing cost pressure they could do without. Conventional chewing gum is not biodegradable and councils have to use specialist equipment to remove it, which is both time-consuming and very expensive.
“It is therefore reasonable to expect chewing gum manufacturers to help more, both by switching to biodegradable gum and by contributing to the cost of clearing it up.”
According to the latest council statistics Birmingham City Council issued 6,306 fines last year to litter bugs – 98 per cent of them for dropping cigarette butts. It is not clear if any were for chewing gum.
Last year Lord Whitby of Harborne, the former council leader and colleague of cllr Douglas Osborn, invested in Eco Removal Systems of Smethwick – which manufactures chewing gum removal machines. The firm is growing rapidly as cities across the globe get to grips with the pavement menace.