Stamping down on chewing gum blight

THE boss of the firm that manages Edinburgh's city centre has declared war on people spitting out chewing gum on the street.

Tom Campbell, chief executive of Essential Edinburgh, said that people's impressions of the Capital are being ruined by the gum-covered streets.

He is now to launch a campaign to make people realise the damage they are doing to a world heritage site.

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His comments come as Essential Edinburgh's gum cleaning crackdown continues. Mr Campbell said: "People have made a conscious decision to leave their permanent mark on Edinburgh by spitting out their chewing gum on to the street.

"On the one hand, I am delighted with the progress we have made in trying to tackle the problem. But, on the other, I'm disappointed we have to. It is unacceptable.

"In their homes, people wouldn't spit their chewing gum on to the carpet yet they are happy to do it on a world heritage site.

"As much as we want people to look at Edinburgh's amazing architecture, when they are walking they look down or ahead. They don't see the architecture – they see all the chewing gum.

"It is a sign of what people think about the city. It is a conscious decision people have made to spit it out. For me, people have to think about the permanent mark they make."

Essential Edinburgh spent 6,000 last year on buying a specialist "gumbuster" machine.

Its cleaning programme has so far focused on Rose Street and 20,000 square feet of pavement space has been cleared.

It will now move on to Charlotte Square, where properties include the official residence of the First Minister, a range of buildings owned by millionaires Sir David Murray and Walter Scott, and the headquarters of the National Trust for Scotland.

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Essential Edinburgh turned its sights on the area after comments from local businesses.

Mr Campbell said the key was to stop people spitting out gum, although he does not want to see environmental wardens being asked to fine more offenders.

"I would much rather people changed their behaviour and saw that what they do is detrimental rather than just fining people," he said. "Fining has its place but the problem is how you police it.

"We have to look at how we encourage behavioural change.

"We have new bins going on Rose Street and we need to make sure we have the facilities to get rid of chewing gum, cigarette butts and whatever else."

City centre councillor Charles Dundas said: "Thousands of visitors come through the city centre every day and we clean up after them but we will never get on top of the problem simply by employing more people to clean up. So I would be entirely behind Tom in trying to stop people dropping litter or spitting out gum in the first place.


The idea of a tax on chewing gum was raised in 2001 by then-council leader Donald Anderson, as a way of dealing with the problem.

Removing gum from the streets – using spray jets, chemicals or even laser equipment – is estimated to cost local authorities across the UK more than 150 million a year.

The scale of the problem prompted a group of more than 35 councils to again call for a 1p tax on every pack of gum sold in 2005, which would be put back into cleaning up gum.