Oh, I see! moments
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An Irritating Issue Invites Creative Problem Solving

by Meredith Mullins on January 3, 2013

Littering of chewed gum, showing need for Creative Problem Solving

What Do U C?
© Meredith Mullins

What Do You See in the Photo?

An early Jackson Pollock? A view of the earth from the edge of space? A beachside road where seagulls have marked their territory?

Still not sure? Perhaps this riddle will help provide an Oh, I see moment:

It has all the attributes of a good friend.

  • It’s long lasting.
  • It sticks through thick and thin.
  • It stays true to itself (it doesn’t change in basic form or values).

But unlike a good friend, it offers nothing concretely useful, it’s annoying when it’s not a part of your life, and it’s disgusting when it’s past its prime.

What is it? Do U C now? It’s chewing gum . . . in all its squashed, repugnant glory. And these days, it seems to be everywhere.

Littering of chewed gum on street, showing need for creative problem solving

On The Street Where I Live
© Meredith Mullins

Gum Litter—It’s a Sticky Issue

Life was bad enough when every desk in school had chewing gum stuck under it. Or, when you felt your way to a seat at a sports event or in a movie theatre and you invariably touched a hardened lump of someone else’s chewed-up rubber.

An even worse fate was when you stepped in a freshly strewn piece on the street and your shoe stuck to the pavement. It’s impossible to get the gooey mess off your sole.

shoe stuck in gum, showing need for creative problem solving to prevent littering

© Thinkstock

Now, it seems, gum chewers consider the streets their kingdoms. Throwing out their used-up gum wherever they happen to be is acceptable behavior.

Oh, I See It . . . Everywhere

Lately, as I’ve walked on the streets of the city I live in and love, I get riled up when I look down. Once you know what the flattened spots are, you can’t stop seeing them. OIC gum splats and splotches. And I see them everywhere.

Gum is the second largest littering problem on the planet (after cigarette butts), and it seems to be leaving its indelible mark . . . on every city street.

Gum is gum for eternity. It is not biodegradable. It will not miraculously wash away with the first rain, or even with the whirling brushes of a normal street cleaner. The gum busters (see video) have to be called in, with their pressure steam and chemicals for removing this resistant material.

The cleaning process can’t keep pace with the offenders, and the cost is in the multi-millions of dollars for countries’ taxpayers every year.

 If the video does not display, watch it here.

A Creative Solution to Stop Gum Littering

Creative problem solving can lead to a practical solution. Anna Bullus from the UK, where gum seems to be a perennial problem, created a way to recycle gum as itself.

She spent four months in a chemistry lab to create a plastic polymer out of used gum, a material that can be molded into new products like mobile phone covers and boots.

Then she came up with the perfect use: she created a receptacle to collect discarded gum. When the “GUMDROP Bin” is full, it and its contents are remolded into . . .  what else? Another GUMDROP Bin.

A gum bin to prevent gum littering, creative problem-solving by Anna Bullus

Gum bin designed by Anna Bullus

Tackling the Gum Litter Problem

In addition to gumbusting and creative recycling, perhaps the most obvious solution is: stop littering.

Some countries have been (relatively) successful in getting dog owners to clean up after their dogs when they’re out walking on the city streets, especially when fines are enforced. But apparently, dropping gum is a hard habit to break.

What are some other solutions?

  • Ban gum?
  • Invent a non-stick, environmentally friendly gum?
  • Enforce gum littering fines?
  • Invent a gum that dissolves in your mouth so that it’s never thrown away?

Why not participate in the creative problem solving by adding an idea of your own in Comments?

Anna Bullus won the Homes and Gardens Eco Designer of the Year Award.

Gumbusters video VIA DNA Info (Manhattan Local News)

Inspire insight with your own OIC Moment here.


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