Published: Friday, 8 September 2023

Oxford City Council and ODS have now started removing chewing gum litter from several city centre locations.

Using almost £25,000 of grant funding from the Chewing Gum Task Force, administered by environmental charity Keep Britain Tidy, chewing gum is being removed from the surfaces of Magdalen Street, Broad Street, Cornmarket Street, Carfax and Castle Street flowing into Norfolk Street.

Chewing gum litter on the historic streets of Oxford is a constant source of complaints from residents, businesses, and tourists. The targeted removal of it will help to build a feeling of pride in the city centre and makes Oxford feel cleaner and more welcoming to visitors. Clean streets also encourage the opening of new outlets by traders, who see a cared-for city and want to invest in it.

Work started in late August and is expected to take place through to October. The street cleaning team will start around 4am and finish as the streets start to get busier, usually around 7.30am. As high-powered steam is used, these times have been chosen to limit the disruption to people walking through the areas being cleaned.

The cleaning will be accompanied by a range of educational materials encouraging proper gum disposal.  

Chewing gum litter on streets is not just unsightly and difficult to remove, it can also be bad for the environment.

In 2019, Oxford City Council declared a Climate Emergency and held the Oxford Citizens’ Assembly on Climate Change. Local people want the city to continue to take a lead in reducing emissions and increasing biodiversity.

As chewing gum is an oil-based synthetic polymer, these products are not broken down by the natural processes that exist in the environment. Plastics and synthetic rubbers last for hundreds of years.

It takes on average 30 minutes to cover 15m2 clearing gum with a steam cleaner, followed by a mechanical sweeper to leave at an acceptable standard. A follow-up sweeper is needed to clean up any staining on the York stone slabs that have been left by the oils in the gum. ODS’ steam cleaner is on a converted 1973 electric milk float. No chemicals are used during removal.

“The team at ODS have been working hard to clean our historic streets of chewing gum and displaying information to encourage everyone to dispose of their chewing gum correctly.

“Dropping chewing gum on the street makes a place look unkempt, can cause issues for people and the environment, and requires specialist removal.

“The next time you have chewing gum, think about the correct way to dispose of it and help us to keep our streets clean.”

Councillor Nigel Chapman, Cabinet Member for Citizen Focused Services and Council Companies

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