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Nearly £25k allocated to purging Oxford’s streets of chewing gum

Oxford City Council has accepted a grant of nearly £25,000 to clean up improperly discarded chewing gum, which they described as a “blight” on local streets in a recent press release.

The grant will be primarily directed towards steaming and sweeping gum off of streets frequented by students, including Magdalen Street, Broad Street, and Cornmarket Street. The remaining sum will fund specially designed signage encouraging responsible gum disposal. Environment Minister Rebecca Pow said in a statement that such efforts have been found to “[reduce] gum littering by up to 80% in the first two months” by participating councils.

According to the Council, chewing gum litter is a “constant source of complaints” from local residents, businesses and tourists. Beyond it being a “nuisance”, the Council noted that gum has the potential to inconvenience tourists; erode public feelings of pride in the city; jam wheelchair wheels; and stick to shoes to be carried into buildings.

The independent charity Keep Britain Tidy awarded the £24,960 grant via their Chewing Gum Task Force, which has funnelled over one million pounds towards gum clean-up efforts in 56 cities across the UK since its conception last year. The Task Force is funded by major gum manufacturers including Mars Wrigley and Perfetti Van Melle, but city councils are chiefly responsible for footing the roughly seven million pounds that are directed at chewing gum clean-up annually across Britain. 

In a statement, the Council’s leader, Susan Brown, said: “It would be really great if more people would dispose of their chewing gum responsibly in a bin rather than discarding it on our streets where it causes damage and increases our cleaning costs.”

Oxford City Council’s stated four key priorities for the city are to promote business and employment opportunities; to address an acute housing shortage; to reduce economic inequality; and to reduce carbon emissions in light of a climate emergency. While it is not clear which of these priorities the initiative is addressing, the cleaner does not use chemicals and is said to be housed on a repurposed 1973 electric milk float, allowing it to pass through the trial Zero Emission Zone in Oxford’s city centre.

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