Irish Citizens Face Fine For Dropping Chewing Gum on Street

The government launched a campaign Monday to improve Ireland's gum-spotted sidewalks, telling people to put the sticky stuff in bins or face a $160 fine.

Dublin sidewalks typically are polka-dotted with smashed sticks of gum that defy removal. The problem reflects Ireland's well-documented national carelessness with litter, as well as too few garbage bins in public places.

CountryWatch: Ireland

The project, launched Monday by a government-appointed Gum Litter Taskforce, will mean prominent billboards thanking people "for binning your gum when you're done" — and warning of increased enforcement measures if they don't. The advertising push is being piloted in Dublin, the second-largest city of Cork, and the eastern coastal resort of Bray, but is expected to go nationwide over the next three years.

The government organized the project after gum manufacturers, led by Chicago-based Wrigley's, successfully lobbied last year for the government to abandon its previous plan to put a 6.25 cent tax on each pack of gum sold in Ireland. The government had proposed the tax on the back of its successful 2002 initiative to limit stores' distribution of free plastic bags by putting a 19 cent tax on each bag.

"Spending more and more to clean up gum litter is not sustainable. We need to change the attitude and behavior of people who do not dispose of their chewing gum responsibly," said Environment Minister Dick Roche.

Paul Kelly, chairman of the Gum Litter Taskforce, said the project "addresses the root cause of the problem rather than the symptom. Only by changing attitudes can we clean up our streets.