Chewing gum is the second most-common form of litter worldwide and a blight on our cityscapes. It’s a form of litter we are tasked with removing all around New Zealand.

Why is chewing gum so problematic? As Just One Ocean explains in this great blog, “Chewing gum is an oil based synthetic polymer, just like plastics and these products are not broken down by the natural processes that exist in the environment. Plastics and synthetic rubbers last for hundreds of years.”

That means that when gum is thrown by someone onto the footpath or school grounds, or street, it adheres and stays put. As American magazine The Atlantic reported,” The very attributes that help gum hold the flavor in your mouth make it very difficult to remove when it ends up sticking on the sidewalk. Gum was once made from natural substances, which microbes could help biodegrade. But modern gums don’t offer them the right habitat to do their thing. It’s very difficult for any organism to eat plastic. So to clean it off the streets, you need to blast it off with loads of hot water and steam…”

Estimates report that:the global chewing gum market is so big that it’s worth around US$19 billion a year and creates 374 billion sticks of gum with a total estimated weight of 100,000 tonnes. That translates to 100,000 tons of plastic pollution being thrown into the environment every year globally. To deal with this, countries are making gum removal a priority. In Britain there is a special Chewing Gum Task Force, set up by the Government, that chewing gum brands have to contribute to to help pay for the millions of pounds spent each year trying to get chewing gum off streets. In Singapore, it’s an illegal substance — you can’t chew gum unless you have a medical exemption for it. Here in New Zealand, removing gum is a big part of what we do at Civic Waste and schools are where we do the most work.

We remove chewing gum using our high-pressure Steam Cleaning Vans, in a process that starts with a wide rotor wash attachment dispensing hot or ambient temperature water at high pressure through nozzles that spin at high speed. The outcome of this is that any concrete surface is cleaned and while all gum in the area is still there, it’s now easily identifiable. To lift the gum, a powerful wand blade attachment is then used to flick it off the ground utilising pressure and heat.

The end result is a surface that looks as good as new. If you need gum removed at your school, walkway or footpaths, get in touch.