Cleaning chewing gum from the streets can be difficult and costly. flow’s Janet Du Chenne meets entrepreneur Anna Bullus, whose recycling company Gumdrop is determined to change that
The next time you stand in chewing gum, ask yourself: what if this could be turned into something useful before it becomes a nuisance? This question got entrepreneur Anna Bullus thinking and led her to set up Gumdrop Ltd, a company that recycles waste chewing gum and processes it into a range of new, sustainable compounds that can be used in the rubber and plastics industry.
Noting on its website that it costs £150m a year to remove chewing gum litter from streets in the UK (34,000 football pitches, for scale), Gumdrop makes round pink bins for collecting gum after it has been chewed. The full bins are collected and recycled, and the waste gum is turned into sustainable compounds, Gum-tec, using a closed-loop recycling process. Those compounds are used to produce an array of products, including Wellington boots, coffee cups and stationery products, that are sold on the company’s website. The products, which are 100% recyclable, along with the Gumdrop bins, can be put back into the recycling process and recycled again and again. Gum-tec compounds do not use virgin plastics, as well as reducing the amount of oil that is used in the actual plastics recycling process. “The process we use is a sustainable way of producing plastic compounds, as we are not using any new plastics or oil in the process. This helps to save our natural resources,” explains Bullus.
Using a sticky message
This closed loop recycling process has also positively impacted other sustainable initiatives. For example, the Design Museum in London hosts education workshops and uses Gumdrop as an example of closed-loop design in materials and sustainable manufacturing. Bullus was invited to judge the Design Ventura 2017 Awards, in partnership with Deutsche Bank, as part of the bank’s youth engagement programme, ‘Born to be’. Each year, students are challenged to design a new product for the Design Museum shop in London.
Gumdrop has also teamed up with the Small Steps project, a charity that aims to get families and children off landfill sites in Romania. For every pair of Gumboots produced in the UK and sold, a pair is manufactured to go to children on the landfill sites in Romania to protect their feet from toxicity.
Stick with Gumdrop
In an age when so many sustainable efforts are embedded in people’s psyche and organisations’ corporate social responsibility programmes, this could not be a better time for pioneering companies like Gumdrop. For example, Deutsche Bank has sustainability offerings in its core business and is among the top European private-sector project financiers in clean and renewable energy, with approximately €2.2bn in project finance. It has also partnered with clients in several landmark issues in the fast-expanding green bond market and its asset management arm had €20bn of environmental, social and governance assets under management at the end of 2017.1
This growing commitment to a sustainable future presents Gumdrop with an opportunity to scale and grow. With its core business in the UK, Bullus is looking for partners and investors to expand both domestically and into overseas markets. “As well as R&D for applications in high-volume markets for Gum-tec,” says Bullus, “in the construction and the car industries, there are many applications that chewing gum would lend itself really nicely to, including car bumpers, car mats, construction and piping. In terms of volume and delivering sustainable options into those markets, the performance still has to be good quality, which chewing gum, bizarrely, provides. When you see it like this, it all comes together.”
The next time you get rid of your chewing gum, think of the potential of the Gumdrop bins and what this sustainable initiative can do for your business. Stick with them.
Contact Anna Bullus: firstname.lastname@example.org
1 Deutsche Bank Annual Report 2017
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