In this assembly Brian Radcliffe invites students to consider an imaginative way to recycle an unsightly and invasive type of litter
Leader: Didn’t the area where we live look different under all that snow over Christmas and the New Year? Each time there was a fresh fall it covered everything in pure white. Every ugly building and piece of wasteland, probably even the town waste disposal site, looked like a scene from an Alpine holiday promotion. There it lay, deep and crisp and even as it says in the Christmas carol. As far as the eye could see there was an unending, even covering of white. It was perfection.
It’s begun to melt now, and the reality under the clean white blanket has been revealed. We knew it couldn’t last.
Yet along the dark pavements it’s still possible to see small circles of white, each about the size of a 5 pence piece. Are they particularly persistent snowflakes, or maybe giant ice crystals; a lingering reminder of the perfection earlier? No. In fact they’re lumps of gum spat out weeks, months or even years ago onto the pavement when the taste has been chewed out, then trodden flat by thousands of shoes. If you look closely they’re not even white, these unpleasant lumps. They’re actually more of a dirty grey colour and they look disgusting.
Leader: The removal of chewing gum litter from our streets costs the Government an estimated £150 million each year. It costs so much because, unlike other litter, chewing gum sticks fast to the surface on which it’s deposited. That’s because chewing gum is made from a synthetic form of rubber not unlike that used to make tyres for bikes, and sticky rubber gives good traction, as all bikers know. It’s therefore necessary for council workmen to use powerful steam or chemical cleaners to break the adhesion of the gum and dredge up the residue. It’s an expensive business. However, there is a potential solution in sight.
Reader: Anna Bullus is in her mid 20s and has recently graduated from the University of Brighton, where she was studying three-dimensional design. As part of her final year project she discovered a process that turns used chewing gum into a mouldable material that she has named BRGP. This stands for Bullus Recycled Gum Polymer. BRGP comes in the form of pellets that can be injected or blow-moulded into many plastic products, both rigid and flexible.
Leader: Where does Anna get the used chewing gum she requires to produce BRGP? Does she go out every day armed with a scraper to scour the pavements of the nation? Has she mobilised an army of trained scrapers to harvest the raw material from underneath the desks and tables of every secondary school and college? No, she’s actually created her own supply line. She’s used her first supplies of BRGP to create the Gumdrop.
Reader: The Gumdrop is a small bin into which people can place their used gum, which is then sent for recycling. The Gumdrop is pink and bubble-shaped, and looks just like a well-blown bubble gum bubble. There’s the genius of the designer for you – you can tell what the bin is made for, just by looking at it! Her plan is for Gumdrops to be placed on every street corner and in schools and colleges up and down the country.
There are two benefits to be gained from the Gumdrop: first, widespread use by gum chewers should result in less gum litter on the streets, therefore requiring less cleaning which should result in finance being made available for other local council initiatives. Second, gum collected in Gumdrops becomes a valuable raw material that could be used for a wide range of products. Anna already had designs for furniture, toys and practical products such as bottle tops. This means that every use of BRGP means less use of oil-based plastic materials which must be good for the planet.[At this point you may find it useful to show students the short promotional clip available at gumdropbin.co.uk. A variety of additional information is also available at this site, including ways to get involved in the project.]
Leader: To me the Gumdrop seems like a work of genius. It’s so simple and yet could have a significant effect. As in most schools up and down the country, gum litter is a significant issue for us. It’s unsightly, it’s anti-social and it’s damaging to clothing and to property. Here’s a novel way to take care of the issue and feel we’re doing long term good. Maybe we should become part of the project? Our involvement might provide the raw material for many more Gumdrops to be produced and provided for other schools. Maybe we could be amongst the pioneers in this area? That’s a suggestion we could ask the student council to consider.
There is however something more to think about: what should we do about the issue of gum litter while we’re awaiting the arrival of our first consignment of Gumdrops? Here’s a suggestion: why not begin to train ourselves in the first stage of recycling, that is to place waste gum in an appropriate container? [You may wish at this point to remind students of the school policy regarding chewing gum and the location of appropriate disposal bins.] If we create constructive habits now, we’re more likely to make a success of the Gumdrop project later.
What do you think? Are you ready to get involved now? The Gumdrop is a novelty that I hope appeals to you, but it is a constructive novelty that can affect the way we live in a small but significant way.
Meanwhile, think about the words of this prayer. Make it your own if you wish.
Dear GodMany of us enjoy chewing gum.It helps us concentrate.It keeps our breath pleasant.Some types of gum clean keep our teeth cleanAnd we enjoy the taste.When it’s served its usefulness, may we remind ourselves to dispose of it responsibly,Whether there’s a Gumdrop or not.May we do so simply because it makes the environment more pleasant for us all,And that matters to us.
Source of story: The Telegraph Magazine 19/12/09 page 65
This e-bulletin issue was first published in January 2010
About the author: Brian Radcliffe