Chewing gum may no longer be footwear’s worst enemy.
U.K. company Gumdrop Ltd. has been taking discarded chewing gum and recycling it into a range of new compounds that can be used in the rubber and plastics industries. And that rubber and plastic is making its way into shoes, among other things.
The company, founded by designer Anna Bullus, developed a closed loop recycling process to collect gum in its own pink litter bins placed throughout the U.K. and turn it into what it calls Gum-tec. In working to develop the technology Bullus found that the main ingredient in gum is a polymer similar to plastic. The sustainable and moldable material can be applied to broad range of plastic and rubber products, from mobile phone covers and packaging, to outsoles and rubber rain boots, and goods can come in any color.
Gumdrop works with a U.K. recycling plant to eliminate unwanted material from the gum it collects before grinding the gum into pieces, Bullus explained to the BBC in an interview. The gum is then blended with other recycled plastic polymers and turned into products by a plastic molding specialist.
Each object made with Gum-tec contains at least 20 percent chewing gum. The company currently sells rulers, pencils, guitar picks and coffee cups made with recycled chewing gum, though it is looking for different manufacturers and companies to collaborate with in order to bring new Gum-tec products to market. Wrigley, among the world’s largest chewing gum manufacturers, has already gotten on board with the project, donating its excess material to supplement Gumdrop’s supply.
The goal, in addition to saving city streets from the sticky stuff, is to help encourage more sustainable actions. And with the right design, she expects the goal can be reached.
So does Wrigley.
“Gumdrop is a really creative and innovative way to get people responsibly disposing of their gum and binning it,” Wrigley spokesperson Alex Hunter-Dunn, told the BBC. “We fundamentally believe that behavior change is the only long-term sustainable solution to tackle the issue and we are very much behind that.”