One sticky problem – cleaning the chewing gum from South Street

PUBLISHED: 10:47 24 June 2015 | UPDATED: 10:47 24 June 2015

Cllr Robert Benham in Romford

Cllr Robert Benham in Romford


Forget gold, the streets of Romford town centre are paved with chewing gum.

Cleaner Havering

Fly-tipping, chewing gum and spitting are just some of the anti-social behaviours Havering Council is targeting through its Cleaner Havering campaign.

The campaign was launched in 2012 after a survey revealed the importance to residents of a clean and attractive borough.

Since then the council has embarked on a number of schemes to tidy-up the streets and green spaces.

These include a campaign targeting dog owners who fail to clear up after their pets and a crackdown on fly-tipping featured in a front page report by the Recorder last month.

In town centres investment has been made on state-of-the-art street cleaners to remove rubbish and chewing gum from the streets.

The efforts to clean-up the borough are not only to improve its appearance but to protect the health of its residents.

Reports have been made of fly-tippers dumping asbestos in the borough, while chewing gum spat on to pavements can spread tuberculosis, and dog poo can contain parasites that cause sickness and even blindness.

Since the Cleaner Havering campaign begun 100 new bins, 60 new trees, and 29 public benches have been purchased.

Looking forward Havering Council will explore ways to crackdown on spitting, chewing gum and public urination, with a report expected to come before Cabinet in the next few months.

What do you think? Email emma.lake

On one paving slab, next to a bin in South Street, I counted more than 70 pieces of gum welded to the pavement.

But, thanks to a Havering Council pilot scheme, on the other side of the road pavements are sparkling.

Street care staff, armed with high pressure gum removal guns, have spent the last two months laboriously cleaning sticky wads from a small section of the street.

Cllr Robert Benham, the authority’s cabinet member for environment, said: “When you have high footfall streets, important to the borough, it’s important to keep them clean and everybody has a responsibility to do that.

“We have done an element of cleaning on this section but that’s taken many weeks even when you remove the gum it leaves an oil based mark that has to be scrubbed again.”

The action, which will see £20,000 spent on three more removal machines, is set to continue.

But, don’t expect over-night results.

When the council set out to tidy up Romford’s pavements it predicted South Street alone would take five months, but following the pilot scheme this estimation has been increased.

And if nothing changes the team charged with spraying the gum from the pavements will have to turn around and start again.

On Monday afternoon I grabbed a removal gun and had a go.

It’s a boring time-consuming and, frankly, pretty disgusting job.

A chemical is sprayed on to the gum before high pressure steam and scrubbing works it away from the pavement – several minutes later.

The cost of removing just one piece of gum, taking into account labour and machinery, is 10 to 20 times the cost of the gum itself.

But, judging by the pavements of South Street, if nothing is done we will soon will be unable to see the slabs beneath our feet.

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