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Most people have a love-hate relationship with gum. For delicious as it is, the sticky, tasteless waste that remains is not just annoying, especially when inadvertently stepped upon, but also, harmful to the environment. That's because the primary ingredient in most modern chewing gums is synthetic rubber which is not biodegradable. With an estimated 560,000 tons of gum being chewed each year, this adds a lot of unwanted polymer to our already overwhelmed landfills. Now thanks to Gumdrop Ltd., there may be a solution to this sticky problem.
The U.K. based company has come up with a brilliant idea that enables easy disposal of chewed gum using specialized recycling bins. Passersby can simply dump any unwanted chewing gum into the bright pink gumdrop-like receptacles that have been installed across the city of London.
Once full, they are mailed to Gumdrop headquarters where the gum is recycled to create - yup you guessed it - more receptacles! The company says that the gum waste can be transformed into other useful things like rubber boots and phone cases as well.
Though the pink bins clearly indicate that they are for meant for gum recycling, there is always the risk that people will use them to get rid of all kinds of trash. To ensure that it is just gum that gets recycled, the company has devised a special system that extracts any foreign items that have been mixed in.
Anna Bullus, who founded the company in 2009, says she was inspired to create the clever receptacles after observing the sticky mess caused by gum waste on the streets of London. To test if people would be willing to dispose of gum responsibly, she set up two bins inside a men's restroom at Southampton Airport about 80 miles northeast of London. It was extremely successful! Bullus says they had to pick up the full receptacles just five times a year, an endeavor that cost the company $300.
In comparison, airport officials would have spent $4,600 over the same period to clean up the sticky mess left behind by carelessly thrown chewed gum. A similar experiment at London's famous Villiers Street resulted in a 40% decrease in gum debris.
While the test convinced Bullus that she was on the right track, it took another three years before the pink receptacles were adopted by Legoland outside of London. Their success, however, has led to the rapid deployment of the bright pink bins in the city's streets, offices, and even schools.
Bullus now hopes to take her Gumdrops to countries around the world. Among the top on her list is the U.S.A where an estimated 59% of the population chews gum! The company has also introduced Gumdrop On-the-Go. The personal recycling bins that can be attached to key chains enable consumers to get responsibly rid of gum waste.