Edinburgh businesses want crackdown on gum mess

A council worker uses a high pressure hose to blast off gum from the pavement. Picture: Julie Bull
A council worker uses a high pressure hose to blast off gum from the pavement. Picture: Julie Bull
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City centre traders want a crackdown on chewing gum litter bugs in a bid to clean up the heart of the Capital.

Business groups voiced ­support for tackling gum litter in the wake of the latest Keep Scotland Beautiful report in which Princes Street and the surrounding area failed to meet the target score for national cleanliness standards.

And they have urged the council to step up enforcement of on-the-spot fines to wipe out the problem.

The Cleanliness Index Monitoring System [CIMS] survey blamed “smoking related litter, trade waste and litter at bus stops” for the city centre’s score of just 60 – well below the target of 72.

Fawns Reid, committee member for the Grassmarket Area Traders Association, said it was time for bylaws banning gum litter to be more strictly enforced.

Existing regulations mean offenders caught not disposing of chewing gum in a proper manner can be given a fixed penalty notice of £50.

Ms Reid said: “It’s much the same as the cigarette butts – you just do a few £50 fines and then people suddenly realise that throwing away a piece of chewing gum [is not acceptable].

“I think the chewing gum companies are grossly irresponsible. It’s always promoted that you do throw it away and there’s a whole generation of people that seem to think that’s OK. There’s a lot to be done to educate people.

“It gets on people’s shoes and then they come and trail it into homes and places of business and you’ve then got to try and get if off carpets and floor surfaces.”

Ms Reid said the cost of removing gum litter was a major issue and stressed using wardens to penalise litterers could be particularly effective.

She also backed the council’s £500,000 Edinburgh Spring Clean initiative, with specialist equipment used to clean up streets and rid areas of graffiti and discarded chewing gum last year. Blitzes were done on two wards in the city centre and Leith areas.

George Street Association chairman Josh Miller said the council should resort to fining chewing gum ­offenders if that was what it took to guarantee city centre cleanliness.

He said: “If it becomes the only way to make people change their habits, then it’s worth looking at.”

The council said chewing gum removal came under its neighbourhood street cleaning budgets and was not costed separately. However, Glasgow City Council revealed this week that it spends £65,000 on cleaning up the sticky mess each year.

Graeme Hendry, Glasgow’s SNP leader, has backed wardens handing out fixed-penalty notices to people who discard their gum in his city.

Plans have also been drawn up in Milton Keynes to enforce a Singapore-style rule, with ­on-the-spot fines of £80 for flouting the law.

The zero-tolerance approach proposed by a consortium of fed-up business people was raised this month after 22 pieces of discarded gum were found in one square foot of the town’s pavement.

Keith Hales, chairman of the Leith Business Association, said he wouldn’t object to the gum ban, but questioned how the council would enforce it. The council has handed out 20,000 pocket “mini bins” in recent years in the city centre and Leith areas to encourage people to correctly dispose of gum and cigarette litter.

This year’s spring cleaning projects are also in the process of being confirmed.

City environment convener Councillor Lesley Hinds said: “Our most recent survey of the public shows that satisfaction with street cleaning has gone up significantly in recent years to 86 per cent, but we want to do even better.

“The council will continue to put resources and effort into keeping Edinburgh beautiful and I would also urge the ­public to do their bit by disposing of their chewing gum and other litter properly.”