Wrigley's Foot in UK Sticky Stuff

06 May 2005

Thirty-five local authorities in the United Kingdom are hopping mad at having to foot the bill for clearing the nation's streets of discarded chewing gum.

No suprise then that all favour a proposal from Liverpool City Council that a street-cleaning tax of one penny per pack be levied on the UK subsidiary of The Wrigley Company, the US-headquartered gum gargantua.

Understandably Wrigley, which commands ninety per cent of the UK market, is not over-enthused by the bottom line implications of Liverpool's proposal and has floated a less costly alternative - an ad campaign urging greater care on its customers as to where they discard its highly profitable goo.

Intoned a company spokesman: "A campaign to prevent gum littering and an innovation fund that councils can access to tackle the issue will be put into place during 2005 and Wrigley will be making a significant contribution to this campaign."

The councils, however, are not impressed by Wrigley's munificence. Alan Bradley, Westminster council cabinet member for street environment, prefers the principle that "the polluter pays".

Together with other local authority representatives, he wants Wrigley to unchain its corporate wallet and pay £9 million ($17.1m; €13.22m) a year for cleaning and education.

Says Bradley: "Wrigley's parent company in the US announced record profits last year on the basis of producing a product that has undesirable environmental effects. They need to take more responsibility for this."

The councils also insist the company should not be allowed to emasculate the campaigns which, says Bradley, should be "hard hitting".

"Our fear is that Wrigley must not be allowed to design the campaign. One of the things we think should happen in the campaign is stigmatising the activity."

Other measures to prevent the fouling of streets by Wrigley residues have been tried with varying degrees of success. Bournemouth and Manchester councils trialled a 'gum board' that picture well-known faces such as Saddam Hussein - on which passers-by were invited to deposit their gum.

Gloucester city council, however, demonstrated a far more sophisticated understanding of human nature. It erected a board telling young people not to stick their gum on it. It worked like a dream.

Data sourced from Telegraph.co.uk; additional content by WARC staff