Aarian Marshall is a transportation reporter at WIRED and former CityLab contributor. She lives in San Francisco.
Another skirmish in the war against those gross, black splotches.
The Chewing Gum Action Group (CGAG) has had enough. The organization says discarded gum removed last year from London’s well-trafficked Oxford, Regent, and Bond Streets amounted to 86,000 square meters of guck.
Stepping on fresh gum is bad enough, but watching ancient, blackened gum ground into the sidewalks of a lively part of town is downright depressing. According to one estimate, local councils spend an astounding £56 million (nearly $87 million) cleaning up the “horrible mess” each year.
So the CCAG network—with the help of local government officials, a handful of Business Improvement Districts, the environmental charity Keep Britain Tidy, and even chewing gum industry representatives themselves—launched a new campaign to raise awareness about discarded gum. Their idea is simple, cheap, and shockingly effective.
During the month of October, CGAG volunteers have roamed the gray pavement of Oxford Street, circling each and every gum splotch with bright yellow chalk. The effect, the group says, is “eye-catching” and “measle-like”—but also a little pretty.
CGAG’s nine prior gum-fighting campaigns have created real results. Last year, participating areas saw a 38 percent reduction in gum litter throughout the course of a poster-based campaign. One saw a 90 percent reduction.
“[C]huck it in the bin,” advises Steven Medway of one West End BID. (He is British.)