Gum. As copious as cobblestone on the streets of any major city, it is the second most common piece of litter found worldwide. It’s so common, in fact, that most of us don’t think anything of it…until we step on it, of course.
The issue with gum is far greater than this inconvenience though. Environmentally, and financially, the cost of dealing with gum litter is devastating. Here are some not so sweet facts to chew on:
- Gum litter makes up 250,000 tons of waste internationally, every year. That’s equivalent to 300 sticks per person.
- 92% of paving stones in Britain are believed to have gum stuck to them.
- The UK spends approximately $102 million AUD each year removing gum waste.
- Synthetic plastics in gum don’t break down, meaning they remain in the food chain (when eaten by birds, fish etc.) indefinitely.
Dealing with the gum issue has proved a sticky situation. Several countries have considering following in the footsteps of Singapore, which has banned the use of gum for non-medical purposes. Yet the gum industry is estimated to be worth $19 billion, and it won’t go down without a fight.
So it has fallen to local governments and forward-thinking organisations to seek solutions.
In Amsterdam, one such possible solution has recently emerged, with sustainability-oriented manufacturers Gumdrop partnering with city marketing group IAmsterdam and fashion designers Explicit Wear to create Gumshoe, the world’s first shoe brand to be made partly out of recycled chewing gum.
By breaking down the synthetic compounds in the gum, Gumdrop have created a new form of rubber that makes up 20% of the Gumshoe’s sole (which is shaped as a map of Amsterdam). Around 250gm of gum is used per shoe, meaning the 1.5 million kilograms of gum that’s plastered to Amsterdam’s streets each year can form the basis for 3 million pairs of shoes.
The goal is to expand the project into other cities across the world, turning a profit while also raising awareness of the impact of gum waste.
Gumshoes are produced in two styles – an apt bubblegum pink, as well as black and red – and will go on sale on the Gumshoe site in June for about $300 AUD.