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Biodegradable chewing gum?

14 November 2013

The problem of unsightly chewing gum spoiling the look of pavements and walkways in towns and cities, could soon be a thing of the past thanks to biodegradable chewing gum.

Conventional chewing gums easily become welded to concrete pavements and take approximately five years to break down. Local authorities across the country spend millions of pounds every year tackling this problem. Removing chewing gum from pavements requires expensive, high pressure washers and is both labour and energy intensive. The cost of removing chewing gum from London has been estimated to amount to £10million pounds a year.

Existing strategies used to mitigate this problem include locating boards around city centres with attention grabbing designs to encourage people to stick their gum to a board, rather than drop it on the pavement. Whilst these boards have been shown to be effective, some gum still ends up where it shouldn’t.

In an attempt to solve this problem, Intercontinental Great Brands LLC, a subsidiary of the confectionery company Mondelez, has recently been granted a European patent (EP2129233B) for a biodegradable chewing gum. Its composition includes terpolymers which help to reduce the time it takes to break down within a week.

While the innovation has been developed to help alleviate the problem of chewing gum littering the streets, its author suggests that chewing gum users follow the sound advice of the 'Keep Britain Tidy' organisation and put used gum in the bin.

Joanna Thurston is a partner and patent attorney at Withers & Rogers, a UK based firm of patent and trade mark attorneys.

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