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£25k grant secured from Chewing Gum Task Force to improve Greenford and Northolt stations

Ealing Council has received a £25,000 grant to help combat street litter. The money will go towards new machinery and awareness campaigns that will attempt to rid pavements of chewing gum.

The funding comes after the council successfully applied to the Chewing Gum Task Force which is run by environmental charity Keep Britain Tidy. Designed to clean the streets of gum the initiative aims to help local authorities get the right equipment to remove the limpet-like substance as well as fund behaviour-changing posters, banners, and floor stencils.

The council hopes to reduce gum littering by at least half in Ealing’s most badly affected locations. These areas include outside some of the borough’s main transport links such as Greenford Station, Northolt Station, and South Ealing Station.

Councillor Deirdre Costigan, the deputy leader and cabinet member for climate action, told the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS) that the scheme is about trying to get people to feel proud of where they live.

“It’s about people feeling pride in where they live and if the first thing you see when you go off to work when you go to the Tube station is a bunch of chewing gum litter on the ground outside the tube, it doesn’t make you feel proud about where you live, it doesn’t make you feel good.”

£25k grant secured from Chewing Gum Task Force to improve Greenford and Northolt stations Harrow Online
Cllr Deirdre Costigan. Permission to use for all LDRS partners. Credit: Rory Bennett

“Ealing has seven towns and we want to make sure that they are all clean and tidy. We know that residents do raise this with the council, they raise the issue of chewing gum litter.

“It is something that is done by a minority of people that really blights life for the rest of us. We do take a zero-tolerance approach to it and we do have officers that go out and about in the borough, particularly outside tube stations and they fine people if they litter chewing gum, tissues, cigarette wrappers.

“Often people don’t realise the negative impact it can have on a local area so an officer will fine them which often acts as a wake-up call that this is anti-social behaviour. People can be fined £80 for littering if they are caught in the act.”

“For chewing gum litter, we have 21 stations in the borough, and it’s outside stations that we find that its the worst and particular hotspots like Greenford, Northolt and also South Ealing station, they are key hotspots in the borough so we really want to crack down there.

“What we are looking at with this project is more about behaviour change and clearing up the mess. The new machinery will allow us to remove the chewing gum litter much quicker than in the past.”

Cllr Costigan says that the old machine would take 3-4 days just to clear one patch with the extended time waiting for it to work costing the council money. “This new machine will allow us to get through our town centres much faster than we were in the past. So we should be able to keep the three stations that we are focusing on much cleaner.”

The councillor says that she believes a big reason why there are so many issues with gum is that people don’t view it as littering, something she hopes will change with the awareness campaign the grant also helps fund.

The annual clean-up cost of chewing gum for councils in the UK is estimated at around £7 million and, according to Keep Britain Tidy, around 77% of England’s streets and 99 per cent of retail sites are stained with gum.

With this in mind, LDRS spoke to some businesses located around the station. While some business owners seemed unfazed by the ‘scourge’ of chewing gum on the streets, the council’s initiative divided options.

Dorina Highcock, from Caffeine Co, says that chewing gum is the last of her worries. The small cafe overlooks the front of Greenford station and Dorina says that rubbish and lack of public facilities are far more of a concern for her.

“Maybe the funding should go into opening public toilets not clearing up chewing gum. To me, it is not essential. People come in here every day asking if they can use the toilet and we can’t let them.”

“It’s not ok not to have public toilets,” she added. Dorina says that many people use the station car park when they are caught short, a place where many of the cafe staff keep their cars.

“If you go past the station and under the arches the whole place smells of wee. I think the toilets are the priority, not the chewing gum.”

The café worker does agree that cleaning up chewing gum would be nice and says signage might help with littering but believes the £25,000 could be better used to reopen the public toilets in Greenford Station.

£25k grant secured from Chewing Gum Task Force to improve Greenford and Northolt stations Harrow Online
Cafe outside Greenford Station. Permission to use for all LDRS partners. Credit: Rory Bennett

TfL has said that the facilities were closed due to vandalism.

Georgia Mills from The Railway Pub says it’s good to see the council tackling the gum problem which she agrees is bad outside the front of Greenford Station. She said: “I think it’s a good thing because it’s quite populated around here and there is lots of food and obviously everyone leaves their rubbish around.”

Allison Ogden-Newton OBE, Keep Britain Tidy’s chief executive, said: “Chewing gum litter is highly visible on our high streets and is both difficult and expensive to clean up, so the support for councils provided by the Chewing Gum Task Force and the gum manufacturers is very welcome.

“However, once the gum has been cleaned up, it is vital to remind the public that when it comes to litter, whether it’s gum or anything else, there is only one place it should be – in the bin – and that is why the behaviour change element of the task force’s work is so important.”