By gum – we’ll tax it!

According to a recent edition of the online London Evening Standard  – – a powerful committee of MPs is poised to recommend a tax is imposed on packets of chewing gum to pay the bill for scraping it off Britain’s pavements.

Gum splattered around pedestrian benches on Stall Street
Gum splattered around pedestrian benches on Stall Street. Click on images to enlarge.

It’s a move which could anger manufacturers including Wrigley.

Mark Leftley reports that MPs across the political divide believe a tax of up to 5p on a packet of chewing gum is necessary to pay to clear up litter linked to the sticky product.

Chewing gum is one of the toughest items of waste to remove from the streets: the average piece of gum only costs about 3p, but the expense of clearing it up is 50 times that amount, at £1.50.

There’s plenty of evidence of it around our World Heritage city of Bath.

Deposits of gum on the edge of Abbey Churchyard
Deposits of gum on the edge of Abbey Churchyard

You’ll find it under the Colonnade at one end of Abbey Churchyard, around the benches on Stall Street, on the pavement outside nightclubs and splattered around Bath Spa Station where – no doubt – travellers swap well-chewed gum for desperately needed cigarettes!

According to the Local Government Association, all this well-trodden and seemingly incorruptible waste amounts to a £60 million a year problem in England and Wales.

Gum near a nightclub in Walcot Street
Gum near a nightclub in Walcot Street

Clive Betts, the Labour MP who chairs the communities and local government committee, is understood to have been unimpressed by industry evidence that a tax would actually increase litter.

In a Parliamentary hearing on litter last week, Wrigley’s senior corporate affairs manager, Alex West, argued “litter breeds litter” and argued that a tax “would not address the root cause of the problem”.

She said a small duty would mean that people would think “the clean-up is being paid for” and “incentivises people further to drop it because they think it is OK to do that”.

Just how do you get ride of it all?
Just how do you get rid of it all?

However, a committee source mocked West’s argument and said that a tax of no more than 5p is “probably not a bad idea”.

The recommendation for a levy will be made in a report to be published before May’s General Election.