£10 million for war on chewing gum

chewing gum

This weekend, the Government set out new guidance they hope will help make sure takeaway food businesses play their part in cleaning up high streets. The Government set out their plans to crack down on litter on our high streets, with more than 40 councils across the UK awarded grants of up to £70,000 to remove chewing gum stains.

Updated guidance clarifies the powers English councils must set to introduce stricter litter rules for new hot food takeaways when considering planning applications, including making sure that more bins are installed to reduce rubbish in the surrounding area.

Littering is already a criminal offence and the UK Government has already bolstered local authorities’ enforcement powers by increasing the on-the-spot penalties for littering to £150 in England.

Councils can also take offenders to court, which can result in a fine of up to £2,500 if convicted.

Through the Environment Act, the Government will be able to ensure that enforcement powers are used with a high degree of professionalism, whether by council staff or private contractors, and place our improved enforcement guidance on a firm statutory footing.

Clear and consistent advice

The Government hopes this move will help create cleaner town centres, with figures showing that fast food items are the fourth most common type of litter found on UK high streets.

Commenting on the introduction of the new guidance, Levelling Up Secretary, Greg Clark said:

“We are empowering councils to make sure new takeaway food businesses are doing their bit to stop rubbish littering our high streets.

“It is just one of the many ways we are improving the environment and making sure we can all take pride in the local communities we call home.”

In a statement, the Government said that new guidance will give councils clear and consistent advice on what rules they can enforce when new takeaways open, such as ensuring they install more bins and anti-litter signs around shops or have staff members pick up litter regularly. Failing to adhere to these rules could result in financial penalties.

Build Back Better High Streets

Several councils are already putting these requests into place, such as Gateshead Council which has ordered new takeaways to provide litter bins for customers.

To ensure this best practice spreads across the country, the Government hopes the new regulations will create a new norm across the country, so that new takeaway outlets do not increase the impact of litter on local communities.

This is part of wider measures set out in the Build Back Better High Streets Strategy to improve the public realm and create safer and cleaner spaces.

Fresh War on Chewing Gum

Over the weekend, the Environment Secretary set out new plans to remove chewing gum stains from our high streets, with more than 40 councils across the UK awarded grants of up to £70,000.

The Government hopes that a new Chewing Gum Task Force grant scheme will help councils clean up UK towns and cities.

Exeter, Birmingham, Sunderland, Swansea, Glasgow and Belfast are among the first winners of funding as part of the Government’s new task force, helping to reinvigorate towns and cities across the UK by funding efforts to clean up streets.

The Chewing Gum Task Force

Established by Defra and run by environmental charity Keep Britain Tidy, the Task Force aims to clean gum off pavements and put in measures to stop it being dropped in the first place.

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 87% of England’s streets are stained with gum.

The funding announced over the weekend is the first tranche of a package worth up to £10 million from major gum manufacturers including Mars Wrigley and Perfetti Van Melle to tackle chewing gum stains – the investment will be spread over five years.

Environment Secretary, George Eustice said:

“Littering blights our towns and costs taxpayers’ money. Working with responsible gum manufacturers, we are now giving councils extra help to clean up our cities and towns.

“This means we can double down on regenerating our high streets, boosting local economies and levelling up communities across the country.”

Funding will cover: 

  • Grants of up £20,000 for councils including Leicester, Hull, Croydon, Southend, Lewisham and Colchester to purchase cleaning equipment as well as receiving signage to warn people not to litter gum – previous pilots run by Mars Wrigley and not-for-profit Behaviour Change using this signage have reduced gum littering by up to 64%.
  • Long-term monitoring of gum litter levels and the effects of intervention for four councils including Belfast, Birmingham, Glasgow and Newport.
  • £70,000 for several council partnerships – including Bury and Bolton, Camden and Brent, and Nottingham and Derby.

Commenting on the new scheme, Chief Executive of Keep Britain Tidy, Allison Ogden-Newton OBE which is running the scheme in partnership with Defra said: “This is an exciting new opportunity for councils to tackle the ongoing problem of gum pollution.

“The grants will allow councils to clean up historic gum litter staining in our towns and cities, as well as taking action to prevent people littering in the first place.”

Supporting the scheme financially, Corporate Affairs Director at Mars Wrigley UK, Ana Baptista said: “Mars Wrigley has invested in campaigns to tackle litter across the UK for many years. Through our partnership with Behaviour Change we have developed interventions proven to reduce gum littering which have already been used by over 100 Councils.

“We are delighted to see these deployed as part of the Chewing Gum Task Force Grant Scheme and look forward to having many more Councils on board.”

Regenerating High Streets

The additional funding and new strategy forms part of the Prime Minister’s High Street 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.

Final thought

We all know how disgusting it is to step in chewing gum when out shopping.

Just one short walk around your local high street, you can see just how grotty some of the streets have become owing to councils cutting street cleaning services. Further putting people off from shopping in their local town centre.

The additional funds are welcome – especially one which is a voluntary partnership between business and government. However, a couple of million seems like a penny in the ocean compared to the profit size of some of these companies; for example, Mars Wrigley made a profit of £55 million in 2020.

Let’s see if this creates a new trend for businesses to act responsibly to help clean up our communities.

Chamber UK

Fleur Anderson MP recently talked to Megan Randles, a Political Campaigner at Greenpeace about the importance of tackling microplastics. They discussed Fleur’s bill in the last Parliament to remove plastics from wet wipes as well as Labour’s plans for the environment more broadly.

Labour MP, Fleur Anderson talks to Greenpeace Political Campaigner, Megan Randles about the need to reduce plastic waste.

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