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“Seeking a solution to the blight of chewing gum.”

A public/private partnership project to seek out the solution to remove chewing gum and other anti-social urban debris such as graffiti and fly posting has kick started in Belfast and Manchester.

Across the UK, councils spent £150m each year cleaning chewing gum off our streets. While a stick of gum costs about 3p, if it is thrown onto the street it can cost councils and businesses 10p to clean it off. But a cheaper solution may soon be in sight.

EU guidelines prevent harmful chemicals being used to clean public spaces. The discovery of an environmentally friendly liquid to do the job would save enormous public resource that could be directed at more significant improvements to the infrastructure.

With funding assistance of half a million pounds from the government sponsored Technology Strategy Board, a collaborative research project between University of Manchester, Queens University of Belfast and a Northern Ireland based private company “Enviroways” is exploring the use of new cleaning compounds to remove chewing gum from our town centre pavements in a manner that is cost effective and environmentally neutral.

Paul Phillips, Director of Enviroways said: “When we find the appropriate liquid it will be available for everyone not just industry. This could be one of the most significant research projects in the country at the present time and I am proud to be able to support it and hopefully bring it to market in the coming years. It will create a cleaner and healthier environment.”

Sitting on the management panel guiding the project is Town Centre Manager for Bangor & Holywood, Stephen Dunlop who said: “The problem of chewing gum has been the focus of considerable debate from local Chambers of Commerce to government. No one wants to be as draconian as Singapore and ban it but no one wants to put up with the unsightly and unhealthy mess it brings. This project could be the answer to our dreams. I have sat in on the various meetings with the specialists and I am confident that a solution will be found, it’s just a question of when?”

Project Co-Director Professor Jim Swindall said the chewing gum would not “simply disappear but we will make it so it degrades and washes away. Manchester’s role will be to provide the enzymes, which we will combine with the ionic liquids to chew up, the chewing gum. Putting the two together will be the ideal solution.”

Explaining the Technology Strategy Board’s support for the project, Chief Executive David Evans said: “The UK has a proud history of innovation. This project will seek to develop a cost effective and environmentally friendly solution to a problem that affects every town and city in the UK. We are delighted to be able to help bring together the UK’s world class expertise to carry out this valuable work.”

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"Another facinating article about Irish scientists who have developed biodegradable non-sticky chewing gum."  Click here to read more.