Non-stick chewing gum

July 3, 2005 by  

SCIENTISTS at Bristol University have come up with the answer to street cleaners’ prayers: non-stick chewing gum.
The gum could save local authorities hundreds of thousands of pounds in cleaning bills. An estimated 28 million Britons chew their way through 935 million sticks of gum each year and much of it ends up on pavements or stuck beneath bus seats.


The secret of the new gum is a polymer called revolymer, developed by Terry Cosgrove, Professor of Physical Chemistry at Bristol University, and his team.

Professor Cosgrove is not keen to reveal exactly what the secret is, other than that two polymers with opposite properties have been combined. One repels water and the other attracts it. The result is a gum that won’t stick when it is wet or dry. At the moment the gum is still a substance in a test tube.

Professor Cosgrove, 56, said: “There is quite a big step between creating something in the laboratory and putting it in your mouth. What we have is the base for chewing gum without any of the flavourings or other ingredients. It would be a bit like gum that’s been chewed for a very long time.”

Professor Cosgrove first came up with the idea after seeing the undersides of benches in the lecture theatre, which were covered in hundreds of pieces of gum.

He said: “Most people hardly notice it until it sticks to the sole of their shoe but once you start looking for it you realise it is everywhere.”

On Thursday his invention won the university’s New Enterprise award. The £30,000 prize, which encourages enterprising projects, will help Professor Cosgrove to continue the development of the revolutionary product.

He is also looking for a business partner to help with marketing. He said: “There is far more potential than just non-stick chewing gum, though that is one of the most obvious. It could also be used in anti-graffiti paint and in hospitals to stop bacteria adhering to items like gloves.” The recipe for success for the gum will be to make the new gum taste and feel exactly like the old one.

In February Westminster City Council hosted a “gum summit” to call for a special tax on gum that would pay towards the £150 million a year cost of cleaning it up.

Since then 31 councils have joined the campaign’s founders — Cardiff, Edinburgh, Belfast and Dublin. Under the Cleaner Neighbourhood and Environment Act anyone carelessly discarding gum can be fined £50 but that has done little to deter chewers.

Westminster City Council currently spends £89,000 on cleaning gum off its streets.

Ordinary chewing gum repels water, which means it cannot simply be scrubbed off. It has to be removed using high pressure steam hoses.


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