I have long campaigned that the environment around us is a major factor in determining people’s quality of life. Areas with dog mess, graffiti and litter not only give residents and visitors a view on local public services but, more importantly, they add up to a perception of crime disorder and personal safety.
Here in Westminster and the City of London our streets are continually cleaned during the day and night but one grimy nuisance will often remain – discarded chewing gum – because it needs special chemical cleaning.
There are 3,000 waste paper bins in Westminster alone but clearly there is never one close enough for many who enjoy chewing gum. It is a noticeable stain on the landscape and it is now so prevalent that people take it as a natural part of modern living.
It does not need to be. It should not exist as a common discarded item and it is about time that we did something about it. Almost everyone has had chewing gum stuck to the bottom of their shoes and travelling by public transport in London can often lead to a sticky surprise from a bus or Tube seat.
Gum is becoming increasingly popular. Central London’s streets are subject to a daily barrage of the stuff and it is estimated that at any one time 300,000 pieces are on the pavements of Oxford Street. The council estimates it takes 17 weeks to clear Oxford Street using specialist cleaning chemicals of chewing gum and only 10 days for the street to be covered again
It is another piece of social behaviour which is quite simply anti-social and continues to undermine London’s profile as a quality city.
It is pointless to attempt to police people’s behaviour over such matters but it is wrong that the manufacturers of the product are not involved in helping to provide a method by which chewing gum can be removed easily. Wrigley’s make 90% of the chewing gum sold in the UK but make no direct contribution to cleaning up the mess their product creates. Each piece of gum discarded on the street is estimated to cost 10p to remove which compares unfavourably with its original purchase price of 3p.
During the next few years whatever happens to our bid for the Olympic Games this city needs to get to grips with the increasing environmental misery caused by such anti-social behaviour as discarding chewing gum and using spray paint for graffiti.
Manufacturers of such products reap the profits and should be held accountable for the environmental impact of their product. For a start chewing gum manufacturers need to make better use of their packs and point of sale material to encourage responsible behaviour by their consumers, but ultimately they need to contribute to the enormous clean up bill.
A cleaner city is a safer city. We residents of central London want to feel secure on our streets. So tackling the little things, like the state of our streets, really does matter.