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Oxford City Council awarded £25k funding to tackle the sticky issue of chewing gum on city’s streets

A grant from the Chewing Gum Task Force, administered by environmental charity Keep Britain Tidy, will help Oxford City Council clean up gum and reduce gum littering.

Oxford City Council is putting plans in place to remove the chewing gum that blights local streets after receiving £24,960 to tackle the issue.

Working with partners ODS, who undertake services like street cleaning on behalf of the City Council, chewing gum will be removed from a number of locations, including 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 both local residents, businesses and tourists. Where it is thrown, it attracts further deposits as well as additional rubbish. It’s a nuisance which if stuck on shoes can be carried into other buildings, and it can also get stuck on equipment used by those with mobility issues making the city less accessible.

Removing chewing gum is not easy. It takes on average 30 mins to cover 15m2 of clearing gum with a steam cleaner, followed by a mechanical sweeper to leave the area 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. The cleaner is housed on a 1973 electric milk float that was converted by ODS to carry out street cleaning tasks in the city centre, including street washing, gum removal and graffiti cleaning.  

The milk float allows ODS to carry out street cleaning services in the Zero Emission Zone pilot area and elsewhere in the city, while also repurposing a vehicle that would otherwise have been scrapped,

No chemicals are used during removal.

Oxford City Council is one of 56 across the country that have successfully applied to the Chewing Gum Task Force, now in its second year, for funds to clean gum off pavements and prevent it from being littered again.

Established by Defra and run by environmental charity Keep Britain Tidy, the Chewing Gum Task Force Grant Scheme is open to councils across the UK who wish to clean up gum in their local areas and invest in long-term behaviour change to prevent gum from being dropped in the first place.

The Task Force is funded by major gum manufacturers including Mars Wrigley and Perfetti Van Melle, with the investment spread over five years. This year the selected councils will receive funding totalling more than £1.2 million.

Monitoring and evaluation carried out by Behaviour Change has shown that in areas that benefitted last year a reduced rate of gum littering is still being observed six months after clean-up and the installation of prevention materials.


Councillor Susan Brown, Leader of Oxford City Council, said:

“Street cleansing happens regularly in Oxford but chewing gum requires specific spot and stain removal, so is a problem for most towns and cities. It would be really great if more people would dispose of their chewing gum responsibly in a bin rather than discarding it on our streets where it causes damage and increases our cleaning costs.

“The City Council has recently established a new landlord working group to focus on strengthening our collective roles in looking after our world class city. The group have commented about the high levels of gum on the streets and how it makes the area feel run down and uncared for.

“This latest clean up will boost a feeling of pride in our beautiful 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.”


Jason Eldridge, Director of Environmental Services at ODS, said:

"ODS is delighted to be working alongside Keep Britain Tidy and Oxford City Council to improve the appearance of our historic city. We will also be deep cleaning the streets and removing gum at times that are least disruptive to our visitors, businesses and residents."

Estimates suggest the annual clean-up cost of chewing gum for councils in the UK is around £7 million and, according to Keep Britain Tidy, around 77% of England’s streets and 99% of retail sites are stained with gum.


Environment Minister Rebecca Pow said: “Littering blights our communities, spoils our countryside, harms our wildlife and wastes taxpayers’ money when cleaning it up. That’s why we’re working with gum producers to tackle chewing gum stains.

“After the success of the first round of funding, this next slice will give councils further support to clean up our towns and cities.”

“In its first year the task force awarded 44 grants worth a total of £1.2 million, benefitting 53 councils who were able to clean an estimated 2.5km2 of pavement, an area larger than 467 football pitches.

“By combining targeted street cleaning with specially designed signage to encourage people to bin their gum, participating councils achieved reductions in gum littering of up to 80% in the first two months.”


Allison Ogden-Newton OBE, Keep Britain Tidy’s Chief Executive, said: “Chewing gum litter is highly visible on our high streets and is both difficult and expensive to clean up, so the support for councils provided by the Chewing Gum Task Force and the gum manufacturers is very welcome.

“However, once the gum has been cleaned up, it is vital to remind the public that when it comes to litter, whether it’s gum or anything else, there is only one place it should be – in the bin – and that is why the behaviour change element of the task force’s work is so important.”