More than £1.2m funding for councils to clean up chewing gum from our streets

Fifty-six councils across the UK to receive funding totalling more than £1.2 million to target chewing gum stains

More than 50 councils across the UK are to receive grants totalling more than £1.2 million to remove discarded chewing gum from our streets and prevent it from being littered again.

Antrim and Newtownabbey, Cardiff, Glasgow, Ipswich, Liverpool, Sunderland and Wiltshire are among those to benefit from the second round of funding from the Chewing Gum Task Force.

Launched in 2021, the Task Force was established by Defra and is administered by charity Keep Britain Tidy, with funding provided by gum producers. It aims to clean gum off pavements and put in measures to stop it being dropped in the first place, helping clamp down on anti-social littering.

Estimates suggest the annual clean-up cost of chewing gum for councils in the UK is around £7 million and, according to Keep Britain Tidy, around 77% of England’s streets and 99% of retail sites are stained with gum.

The Chewing Gum Task Force brings together some of the country’s major chewing gum producers, including Mars Wrigley and Perfetti Van Melle. Together, the producers have pledged up to £10 million over five years via the scheme to tackle gum littering.

The latest round of funding includes:

  • Grants of up to £25,000 for cleansing with a fully funded bespoke gum litter prevention package.
  • Further grants of up to £25,000 for Antrim and Newtownabbey, Cardiff, Doncaster and Glasgow for the fully funded bespoke gum litter prevention package and long-term monitoring and evaluation carried out by not-for-profit social enterprise Behaviour Change.

Environment Minister Rebecca Pow said:

"Littering blights our communities, spoils our countryside, harms our wildlife and wastes taxpayers’ money when cleaning it up. That’s why we’re working with gum producers to tackle chewing gum stains.

"After the success of the first round of funding, this next slice will give councils further support to clean up our towns and cities."

In its first year the task force awarded 44 grants worth a total of £1.2 million, benefitting 53 councils who were able to clean an estimated 2.5km2 of pavement, an area larger than 467 football pitches.

By combining targeted street cleaning with specially designed signage to encourage people to bin their gum, participating councils achieved reductions in gum littering of up to 80% in the first two months. Monitoring and evaluation carried out by Behaviour Change has shown that a reduced rate of gum littering is still being observed six months after clean-up and the installation of prevention materials.

Allison Ogden-Newton OBE, Keep Britain Tidy’s chief executive, said:

"Chewing gum litter is highly visible on our high streets and is both difficult and expensive to clean up, so the support for councils provided by the Chewing Gum Task Force and the gum manufacturers is very welcome.

"However, once the gum has been cleaned up, it is vital to remind the public that when it comes to litter, whether it’s gum or anything else, there is only one place it should be – in the bin – and that is why the behaviour change element of the task force’s work is so important."

Naomi Jones, corporate affairs director at Mars Wrigley UK, said:

"We’re pleased to be supporting the work of the Chewing Gum Task Force again this year. While the majority of consumers already bin their used gum properly, we know there’s still work to be done to change the behaviour of people who are disposing of their gum irresponsibly.

"In its first year, the Task Force’s work saw 2.5km2 cleaned in council areas around the country. Behaviour change interventions achieved chewing gum litter reductions of up to 80%. This year, we’ll be to be funding and partnering with another 56 councils, across the four nations, in 2023."

In 2022, individual councils received grants of up to £20,000 to fund street cleaning and the purchase of cleansing equipment. Larger grants of up to £70,000 were available to two or more councils working together to achieve a greater impact.

In Grimsby, machines made by Eco Removal Systems were used to clean unsightly chewing gum stains in the town centre. Due to the crew wearing the machines as backpacks, the team quickly became known as ‘Gum Busters’. The stains were removed using an eco-friendly detergent made from sugar beet. This was heated and sprayed directly on to the gum to vaporise it.

Four councils – Birmingham, Newport, Glasgow and Belfast – benefitted from a full independent evaluation of their clean-up and prevention signage. A reduction of up to 80% in gum littering after two months was measured as a result of the interventions, through a combination of pre- and post-intervention gum counts and footfall analysis.

The task force was announced as part of the government’s strategy to support the evolution and regeneration of high streets across the country, which includes 15 Town Deals totalling £335 million to fund community regeneration projects, the transformation of derelict buildings and communities being given the chance to own local pubs, theatres, sports grounds and corner shops.

Littering is a criminal offence. In the Prime Minister’s Anti-social Behaviour Action Plan, we have committed to raising the upper limit on spot fines later this year from £150 to £500 in England.

To tackle littering of drinks containers, from 2025 we will introduce a deposit return scheme for drinks containers where people will be incentivised to recycle their bottles and cans by placing a small deposit on drinks products.

We have also banned some of the most littered plastic items in England and plan to introduce further bans from October 2023.

The opening of this next round of funding comes alongside further steps this week to deliver the Prime Minister’s Anti-Social Behaviour Action Plan which sets out the government’s approach to making sure these issues are treated with the urgency they deserve by establishing a zero-tolerance approach to all forms of anti-social behaviour, and giving the police and local authorities the tools they need to tackle the problem.

Coinciding with Resolve’s ASB Awareness Week, pilot schemes have begun in police force areas to increase police patrols in hotspot areas, helping deter crimes from happening in the first place, and to deliver ‘immediate justice’ whereby offenders will be made to repair the damage they’ve caused to their communities with an aim to start reparative work within 48 hours.

Earlier this week, the government also opened the first round of the Million Hours Fund, to make an initial £3 million of grants available for youth organisations to provide more out-of-school activities and support more young people in areas of high need this summer – ensuring young people are helped away from bad life choices and are given access to greater support.

Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs
Rebecca Pow MP