Stamp out gum litter

15 October 2018

With local authorities spending over £60 million per annum to clean up gum from UK streets, the pressure is on to improve processes whilst reducing costs. John Brill of Nilfisk discusses the issue and the solutions available in today's market

The global gum market is estimated at over £100 billion per annum with the UK listed as the seventh largest gum market in the world. Historical data shows that British gum sales have grown 47% since 1999, so it's hardly surprising that local authorities are facing their biggest battle yet.

The Keep Britain Tidy organisation estimates that it can cost up to 10 pence to remove one piece of gum from our streets whilst ironically the cost of the original gum is only around 3 pence. So what solutions are available today to tackle this sticky issue?

Power cleaning

Most modern gums are based on a synthetic equivalent of the original tree sap ingredient. This is a rubbery material called polyisobutylene that is also used in the manufacture of inner tubes. 

Not surprisingly this material is not easily removed with water only and takes months to degrade during which it is harmful to wildlife. Simply chipping the discarded gum off a hard surface can leave a residual mark so pressure washing of the area post clean is often required.

In our opinion, pressure washing remains the most effective way to quickly clean and restore any hard surface area. Fortunately there are a range of both mobile and ride on machines available to resolve the problem.

Environmental concerns

As with every other sector however there is increased focus on chemical reduction within the cleaning process. Pressure washing is an ideal solution for gum removal but if industrial chemicals are used they can get washed into waterways and any remaining residue can present a risk to the public. Nontoxic cleaning agents are available including citrus based products and baking soda but the best solution is water alone and that helps to keep the costs down.

Faster results with hot water 

Hot water cleans better because it is able to penetrate the chemical makeup of the gum faster. Generally a hot water pressure water is 50% more efficient than a cold water option and has a faster drying time. The hotter the water the faster the result and the less water will be used in the process. Add higher pressure and you have superior power to remove unsightly stains. Best practice is to start low, both with heat and pressure, you may not need to heat the water anywhere near 250 degrees so proceed with caution. 

Consider the power source

Unfortunately gum removal can be required almost anywhere and 240 volts may simply not be an option so make sure your equipment supplier has a professional range of fuel and power options.

Nilfisk’s range includes petrol and diesel powered pressure washers that are lightweight despite having shock resistant aluminium frames. Ease of lift and transport can be crucial in this sector so do make sure you consider weight, size and manoeuvrability. The Nilfisk MC and MH range of industrial pressure washers can even be independent of normal water networks, having the ability to suck water from a tank, a pond or a river. 

Ride on utility machines

Local authorities are increasingly looking to combine multiple solutions into one machine thereby reducing capital investment and avoiding having separate machines parked up for months of the year.

Ride on utility machines like the Nilfisk City Ranger 2250 are compact enough for pavements and are available with a range of accessories enabling street sweeping, green maintenance, snow removal and grit spreading. Customers can choose to fit an on-board high pressure washer with a 6 metre hose giving the operator the option to undertake on-the-spot gum cleaning without trailing cables.

Do take the time to see a number of machines in action when you are considering the best solution for you.