With Michael Gove’s Department of the Environment busy widening plastic bags charges, banning cat and dog electric collars, and ivory sales, what might be next for this particular brand of environmental activism?
We speculate that one target might well be the humble piece of chewing gum. Keep Britain Tidy recently found that 95% of Britain’s streets were stained by chewing gum. But with cash-strapped local authorities worrying about delivering high quality placemaking, the last thing they want is the estimated £60m annual bill for cleaning all that gum off the pavements.
Perhaps the answer is a Singapore-style ban on the stuff? Local authorities, including Milton Keynes, have been urged to introduce bans by local campaigners, though not with any obvious success. Enforcement would appear to be problematic, and libertarians, and indeed the chewing gum industry argue that this isn’t the answer and that littering needs to be tackled instead.
Alternatively, a national chewing gum tax on the product has already been proposed by local authorities to cover some of the costs. This sort of instrument is perhaps seen as more politically feasible in the light of the new UK tax on sugary soft drinks.
The problem might turn out to deal with itself, with gum sales curiously declining in the US for over a decade, and manufacturers in the UK also recently reporting falling sales. It’s not clear why. However, we predict elsewhere that rising affluence in our cities, and a realisation that talented people want great places, will create a greater degree of interest and campaigning in placemaking and the quality of the public realm.
One way or the other, our cities are likely to be less sticky by 2040.