2012-07-25

Co.Exist

A New Non-Stick Gum That Won't Stick To Sidewalks

The blackened spots of discarded gum that dot city streets are an unpleasant icon of urban life. Cities expend a lot of time and energy to try to clean them up, but now they may not have to: A new kind of gum is specifically designed to come off sidewalks with ease.

Messing around with classics is always a tricky proposition, but the folks at U.K.-based Revolymer thought that--when it came to chewing gum--there was still room for improvement. Walking down the streets of U.S. cities, one of the company’s co-founders noticed blobs of gum spotting the sidewalks. Dared by his wife to find a solution, he created a new polymer that turns the everlasting, sticks-to-everything stuff into a degradable compound that, while not quite non-stick, can be more easily removed from a variety of materials.

Traditional chewing gum was formulated to repel water, allowing us to masticate until our jaws fail. But that formulation also prevents rainwater from washing it off the sidewalks, and cities around the world use harsh chemicals and spend millions of dollars each year trying to wash off the carelessly discarded gobs of gum, which eventually amass enough dirt to become black spots dotting the pavement.

Photo by Flickr user Carey Tilden.

This new gum, however, degrades over time and comes off sidewalks (and other materials) with far less work. The gum, called Rev7, comes in two minty-fresh flavors and was launched in the U.S. and Canada last year (and only just approved for European sale in March). What makes it unique is a chemical compound that encourages the gum to absorb water and allows a layer of the liquid to envelop it. The gum curls up as it dries out, which allows it to be plucked up off hard surfaces or washed with soap and water off fabrics like wool and cotton. And because water can penetrate the gum, over time it eventually degrades into minerals and other inert materials.

Revolymer claims that Rev7 is as much as 100% easier to wash off of various surfaces, everything from sweaters to shoe soles. Their researchers have performed more than 100 different sidewalk tests throughout the U.S. and Europe and found that normal street cleaning and pedestrian traffic are enough to remove up to 70% of the chewed-up wads. But despite Rev7’s improved clean-up capabilities, cities and street-cleaners still appreciate it if you drop your chewed-up gum in the nearest trashcan.

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