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Chewing gum that used to be thrown on the sidewalk is now being collected, recycled and made into different products – among them, pink bins for collecting chewing gum

Steve Jobs, the founder of Apple, said design is not form, it’s function. Moreover, the bins developed by Anna Bullus, a design student and now English entrepreneur, fit that logic. They exist to collect chewing gum that is recycled to give rise to new dumps – for gum disposal – and other products made from the same raw material. Appropriately, Anna’s company is called “Gumdrop”..

Gumdrop recycles those sticky wads into dog bowls, combs, cutlery and even rubber boots. Gumdrop’s signature product is a bright pink recycling bin, made in part from recycled gum, where passersby can deposit their masticated trash. In the UK, councils spend around £50m – more than US$ 70m – each year cleaning up the streets, whereas gum is the most found trash, more than cigarettes buds.

Recycling gum

The rubbery property of chewing gum is the result of a mix of resins, polymers, and plasticizers with a gum base. According to Chemical & Engineering News magazine, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (entity that rules issues on food and drugs in the USA) permits more than 40 chemicals under the classification of gum base, including natural resins as well as synthetic polymers, such as polyisobutylene to be used in the substance. These materials are mostly recyclable.

Gumdrop hasn’t disclosed its exact recycling process. According to a spokesperson, the gum and bin get recycled together. When the gum-recycling bin is full, it first heads to a plant that removes wrappers, cigarette butts, and the like. After screening, the material goes through recycling processes before eventually becoming polymer pellets that will work with standard plastic-molding equipment. The resulting products are 100% recycled material and contain a minimum of 20% recycled gum in their composition.

US$ 8,500 savings

The University of Winchester was one of the first places to sign up to use the Gumdrop’s bins. Around 8,000 people live and work on its campus where 11 Anna’s special bins have been installed. In addition, to reinforce the message that gum can be recycled if disposed of responsibly, Gumdrop gave out hundreds of coffee cups made of recycled gum to first-year students. Eighteen months later, the university noticed a drop in gum litter and is expanding the scheme.

Gumdrop currently distributes bins only in the UK, but they have had considerable success. According to BBC, Heathrow Airport saved £6,000 – around US$ 8,500 – in cleaning costs during an eight-week trial. Great Western Railway, the train operating company, has installed the bins in more than 25 of its railway stations and is rolling out the scheme further.

Anna believes her bins may inspire chewers to stop throwing litter along with chewing gum. “I do believe that through right design, we can actually change the way people behave”, she told the BBC.

Content published in April 6, 2018

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