Next to cigarette butts, chewing gum is the most pervasive form of litter on our streets. Not only is it unsightly and unhygienic, but it costs our cities tons of money to clean up every year. British designer Anna Bullus decided to do something about all this annoying waste and created Gumdrop Ltd — the first company in the world to recycle and process chewing gum into a range of new compounds that can be used in the rubber and plastics industry.
Most chewing gum today is made from polyisobutylene, a synthetic rubber and type of polymer similar to plastic. It’s basically the same stuff you find in your bike inner tubes. As it is obtained from petrochemicals, which are refined from fossil fuels like crude oil, it can easily be recycled.
At Gumdrop Ltd, they recycle all types of chewing gum waste, from chewed gum collected in bins placed across the UK as well as from gum manufacturers who wish to lower or eliminate their waste gum output. The gum is then recycled and put through a process to create Gum-tec — a range of compounds for use in both the plastics and rubber industries.
The creation of Gum-tec is a closed loop recycling process as it is used to manufacture the Gumdrop collection bins placed throughout the UK. The company also created individual Gumdrop on-the-go pink receptacles designed specifically for the disposal of your own person chewing gum (you can mail them in for free once full). Once the Gumdrop bins are full, the whole Gumdrop along with its contents of waste gum is recycled and processed to manufacture new Gumdrops, and the cycle starts again.
On the other end, Gumdrop Ltd works with manufacturers and companies globally to make products from their recycled and processed chewing gum. Examples include Wellington boots, dog frisbees, reusable coffee cups, and the lunch box – spork set pictured top.
This is a great example of how making it easy for people to change their behavior is critical if you want a long-term sustainable solution to tackle an issue. Think of how many sporks you could make from the Seattle gum wall each year!