Brisbane City Council has made incredible inroads in reducing the amount of litter discarded in Brisbane's CBD by almost 50%. However to achieve this spectacular result they have had to take an innovative approach to the problem of litter generally.
Recent research by Australian's Rob Curnow and Karen Spehr (as quoted in their book 'Litter-ology' published in 2015) has highlighted the fact that people generally tend to litter more in public places that already look 'dirty'. Conversely, these same people are far less likely to discard their litter in places that are clean and well maintained. This 'clean equals clean' observation regarding littering habits is something that Brisbane City Council have obviously cottoned onto in their approach to reducing litter in their CBD areas.
Irresponsibly discarded chewing gum in public places is not seen as a major problem by the vast majority of Australian councils. Despite growing recognition of gum as a serious issue in overseas countries (such as Britain), gum does not feature in the Australian National Litter Index and consequently this unsightly and unhygienic blight on our national landscape is completely ignored by most local governments. As a result, many of our most important business precincts, public areas and tourism destinations have the type of 'dirty' appearance that attracts rather than discourages poor littering behaviour at significant cost to both our image and our communities.
Brisbane City was the first council in Australia to recognise this problem and its costs. However it also realised that conventional methods of gum removal are largely inadequate, costly, noisy and very wasteful in terms of water usage, etc. Consequently in 2007 the Council moved to commission the development of a completely new, purpose-built Gum Removal Vehicle. (The GRV is currently marketed by SAVi City Cleaning.) It also took action to incorporate chewing gum into its regular litter counts.
Since 2009, through the combined action of removing gum (using the high-tech Gum Removal Vehicle) to create cleaner public places and the inclusion of gum in litter counts, Brisbane City now boasts a reputation as one of the cleanest cities in the world.
It about time we all realised that unless we tackle the issue of discarded gum in our business precincts, walkways and other public places, littering will remain a major ongoing cost for us all.