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These Pink "Gumdrops" Are Making London Streets Cleaner

In the effort to make urban areas more clean and green, one pesky little culprit often gets overlooked: chewing gum. From sidewalks to the underside of bus benches, gum is a pollution problem that can be tough to manage. But with a new recycling initiative that’s showing up all over London, there’s a new place for you to stick it.

Gumdrops are bright pink spheres that can be found on signposts and lampposts, often under a sign that reads, “Recycle Your Gum Here.” Toss your chewed-up piece into the container, and it’s recycled into a brand new bright pink globe, which in turn will be used to collect even more gum waste.

That might seem a little icky at first, but the results are impressive. In case studies, Gumdrop receptacles greatly helped to reduce lengthy and expensive cleaning efforts, with overall decreases in litter as high as 89 percent at one location.

Founder Anna Bullus told Slate that Gumdrop is the first ever “closed loop” system for recycling gum. She wouldn’t reveal exactly how the company deals with the inevitable non-gum garbage that ends up in the globes, but said they’re able to handle that (presumably very gross) challenge.

One study suggests that around 374 billion pieces of chewing gum are sold worldwide every year (that’s 560,000 tons), which means it’s probably a good investment to start coming up with ways to tackle the resulting waste. According to the Gumdrop website, chewing gum can also be made into things like Wellington boots, mobile phone covers, stationery, and packaging.

There aren’t any Gumdrops in the United States just yet, but their expanding bubble in the UK suggests we might be seeing the pink orbs on city streets on this side of the Atlantic very soon.

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