You may have been told as a child not to chew gum, due to the harmful effects of its sugar your teeth. However, we now know that chewing gum damages more than just your teeth; gum is actually the second most common type of litter found in the streets, besides cigarettes, and UK councils spend an estimated £50m every year cleaning up gum litter. In fact, the UK Parliament has even considered imposing taxes on chewing gum companies if they fail to take more action to combat the litter problem.
But what if there was a way to recycle used chewing gum so that it can be put to new use, the way we do for paper and plastics? This is exactly what Anna Bullus, who has spent several years researching recycling initiatives, hopes to achieve. By analyzing the chemical base of chewing gum, Bullus has discovered that this substance is actually a polymer compound, which is a type of synthetic rubber used in items such as bicycle wheel tubes. This means that even used chewing gum has the potential to be re-purposed into something useful.
However, the real challenge is persuading people to donate their used gum instead of just tossing it on the street. To tackle this challenge, Bullus came up with the unique idea called Gumdrop. As part of her plan, bright pink, bubble-shaped bins are placed in the streets for the purpose of disposing of chewed gum in a clean and sanitary manner. The Gumdrop bins are designed to be hung at head-level for easier access and visibility and are actually made of recycled chewing gum. Any gum collected in the bins will be sent for recycling.
The initiative has already met with some success. The Gumdrop bins were rolled out at various locations including Heathrow Airport, Great Western Railway and the University of Winchester, leading to thousands of pounds in savings due to less clean up needed and a noticeable change in the amount of gum litter.
Bullus also set out to find industrial partners who would be willing to recycle the old gum and was able to reach an agreement with a recycling plant in Worcester, where the plant collects the bins and sorts out any unwanted materials, such as paper and wrappers. The gum is then ground up into pieces and then mixed with other recycled plastic polymers. The recycled mixture is sent to Amber Valley, a plastic moulding specialist in Leicester, who injects the mixture into moulding machines where it is heated and ejected as a paste, which can be moulded into new objects.
So far, Gumdrops has received positive feedback from some major companies, including Wrigley’s, one of the world’s largest gum manufacturers. Wrigley’s has provided financial backing to Gumdrops and is also providing the project with surplus materials from its factory in Plymouth to aid in this new recycling endeavour.
Read more here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/stories-43198104