Waste can be given a new life and turned into something useful, this we know. That second life can even be given to the material that often gets stuck to the soles of our shoes, discarded chewing gum: nothing can possibly be more useless and annoying. We are talking about serious quantities of waste, with £14bn per year spent on chewing gum worldwide, and constituting the second most prevalent type of waste on our streets, after cigarette butts. In the UK alone, approximately £50m per year is spent clearing up the mess made by chewing gum. So, this is Anna Bullus's idea, born in 1984 and a former student at the University of Brighton’s College of Arts and Humanities: to collect and recycle. By studying the chemistry of chewing gum, Anna discovered that its main ingredient is the gum base, commonly known as a synthetic rubber, a type of polymer similar to plastic called polyisobutylene, the same material that's used for bicycle inner tubes and that is derived from petrochemical products, refined from fossil fuels such as crude oil.
So, even though the young designer had immediately understood how discarded chewing gum could be a versatile and potentially useful material, there was still the problem of convincing people to donate their gum rather than throwing it away, uncaringly and casually just tossing it onto the pavements of our streets and squares, whether they be elegant or rough, busy or quiet. So, a key aspect of Anna’s strategy has been to create a bright pink round bin, shaped like a bubble, where the chewed gum can be collected: the Gumdrop®, which can be hung at head height and is itself made of recycled chewing gum, Gum-tec® (a polymer, created by Anna, which she called BRGP, Bullus Recycled Gum Polymer).