Eternal battle against gum

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It’s like the legendary never-ending job of painting the Forth Railway Bridge (when you’re finished you have to start again) – and the council is stuck with it!

On Tuesday morning, council cleansing officer Brendan Geddis set to work with the borough council’s ‘Gumbuster’, a wonder machine that removes chewing gum from the pavements. And when Brendan and his fellow workers finally clean the last splat of gum that currently despoils the streets of Portadown, Lurgan and Brownlow, they’ll have to start again.

For the careless chewers of the sticky stuff will no doubt continue to spit out their chewed-up gum, and the process will have to start again.

The clean-up started at the plaza area in front of St Mark’s in Portadown, which Brendan left spotlessly clean. And environmental services chairman Alderman Arnold Hatch, who admired Brendan’s handiwork, said, “He’s doing a terrific job with his backpack machine, and I have no doubt that this will be a constant job, with people so thoughtless and careless.

“This machine emits a special mixture that neutralises the gum, and the cleared plaza looks terrific. But with virtually every pavement in the borough splattered with chewing gum, this is going to be a mammoth job, and I’ll guess one machine won’t be enough.

“They cost £3,000 a time, not to mention the labour costs, but we have to remove this scourge from our streets. It’s bad enough having to remove ordinary litter, but this takes even more time, expense and energy.”

Brendan said it was the start of a major experiment and he was impressed by the way the Gumbuster cleaned the plaza. “But it’s a slow painstaking procedure and the ultimate solution is for people not to spit out their gum. But I doubt if that will happen.”

Arnold Hatch reminded the public of the £80 fine for all sorts of litter. And he added Craigavon Borough Council was particularly vigilant over fining litter louts. The borough had the second highest total last year, with around 700 fines. But that is a drop in the bucket, given that Northern Ireland shells out £40m a year in cleaning up litter.

He added, “We’re determined to reduce litter and make our streets cleaner, but that depends on people respecting the law. Chewing gum is the most unsightly in that it sticks to the pavements, and the Gumbuster seems to be effective. But the permanent answer lies with the general public.”

He added, “A new material, I believe, has ended the non-stop painting of the Forth Bridge.

“I’m told that a new glass flake epoxy paint means it won’t have to be touched for 25 years. Sadly, there is no such miracle to keep gum off our streets.”