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New York Daily Photo: Gummed Up
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Wednesday, 20 June 2007

Gummed Up

I'm embarrassed to admit that I had lived in the city for many years before realizing what all those black splotches on the sidewalks and subway platforms were. I'm feeling a little better learning that this is the case with other New Yorkers I have spoken to; in fact many I questioned were still not aware, thinking the splotches may be part of the concrete, asphalt etc. Gum on the streets is not a new problem - Mayor Fiorella LaGuardia ran an anti-gum littering campaign in 1939 with the slogan "Don't Gum Up the Works," and pressured gum manufacturers to print requests on the wrappers that they be used for proper disposal of the gum. The NYC problem is particularly interesting in that New York is home to invention of the chicle base chewing gum by Thomas Adams and the world's first chewing gum factory, circa 1876, on Vesey Street - Adams Sons & Company. In spite of the fact that throwing out chewing gum on the ground is a violation of the littering law and costly to remove, I think the problem is one of those quality of life issues very low on the priorities scale. Many do not notice or find it a problem and the rest of us become inured. On an encouraging note, GumBusters International B.V., a Netherlands base company, has developed technology - steam equipment and a benign solvent - that easily removes the gum in seconds. They have divisions and franchises worldwide. The franchisee in New York, Gumbusters of NY, has been busy cleaning the streets for a myriad of businesses and was featured on the Discovery Channel's Dirty Jobs. Perhaps we should adopt the thinking of Lee Kuan Yew, former prime minister of Singapore, where chewing gum is banned (precipitated by gum vandalism) who remarked: "If you can't think because you can't chew, try a banana." :)


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