If you are walking through the city enjoying a chewing gum, you have probably experienced that moment when you are left looking for an old tissue or receipt to wrap the used gum in so that it doesn’t end up on the pavement. Chewing gums have become one of the toughest challenges when it comes to a clean city, even worse than cigarette butts, as they are 10 times more difficult and costly to remove. Jolande Penninks, the founder of Gumbudy, has started to place boards around Amsterdam, Rotterdam and other Dutch cities showing a world map to stick your chewing gum on. They want to clean up the streets.
In Berlin the city administration has covered the ground of Alexanderplatz, one of its main squares, with a kind of Teflon layer so that chewing gum can be easily removed. Mexico City has invested in expensive 90C vapour guns called Terminators. It takes three days, working in eight-hour shifts, to go through one of the main 9,000 sq metre avenues in the city. By the end, they have removed a total of 11,000 pieces of chewing gum. Other cities like Singapore enforce high penalties. In Amsterdam, Gumbudy wants people to be part of the solution.
It was Anna Bullus, who in 2009 started to place bright pink receptacles designed specifically for the disposal of waste chewing gum to tackle the global problem of gum litter in London.
In the Netherlands, Jolande Penninks, together with four other enthusiastic retired professionals, founded Gumbuddy using their professional wisdom and their creativity to keep the streets clean from chewing gum, and most importantly, to address a problem that is damaging the environment.
Gumbudy has partnered with city officials to collect used chewing gum from citizens and raising awareness on the street and in schools about the environmental impact of throwing chewing gum on the pavement.
Along with stainless steel small containers where chewing gum can be thrown into called GumBuddies, Gumbudy also came up with the idea of placing world map boards in popular locations such as shopping centres, train and bus stations around cities where chewing gum can be stuck on by gum users. It is precisely the small litter that is frequently overlooked, which is often the worst pollution for the environment. These beautiful boards are a way of winking at citizens to change their habits.
Every year about 1.5 million kilos of chewing gum find its way on to the streets of the Netherlands. Cleaning the gum up costs Dutch municipalities millions of euros. It takes 20 to 25 years before chewing gum biodegrades.
In fact, chewing gum is made from ingredients, which make it extremely difficult to break down, including synthetic rubber, which is also used to make car tyres and flooring. Chewing gum is too damaging for the environment to allow it to end up in the waste without recycling.
In Amsterdam the municipalities of the Metropolitan Area have launched Gumshoe, to make the world’s first shoe made from recycled chewing gum collected from the streets of Amsterdam by Gumbudy with a map of the city on its sole. With this initiative, the city is not only fighting the environmental problem of gum litter but also making streets cleaner and more appealing at the same time. Next to making a statement to make locals and visitors more aware of the chewing gum nuisance.
By stimulating “Amsterdammers” with a surprising innovation in the form of a special Amsterdam sneaker, the Amsterdam Metropolitan Area is trying to create awareness. Instead of chewing gum, Amsterdammers can now leave their mark in the capital with a footprint.
“We are committed every day to offer people a good recreation, living and working experience in the capital of the Netherlands,” explains Mustafa Tanriverdi of the Amsterdam Metropolitan Area. “Our city has a lot to offer, especially when the streets are clean. Chewing gum on the street bothers many people, but it is still thrown onto the streets. It is time to change. Adding extra rules and restrictions to reduce the chewing gum problem would be at odds with our mission”.
City Council member Marijn Bosman emphasizes: “Amsterdam is a city to be proud of. And a city that we want to keep clean. The municipality cannot do it alone, and that is why we embrace creative initiatives such as these to keep the city clean and liveable“.