by Devanshi ShahSep 16, 2021
Plastic waste and litter have unfortunately become inherent features of urban landscapes in the present day. A fair amount of this litter falls into the categories of non-biodegradable or plastic-based waste, which has infiltrated our oceans, food networks, and drinking water. Once made of biodegradable chicle, chewing gum is currently manufactured using a synthetic gum base with heaps of added preservatives, plasticisers, sweeteners, and colouring. It forms a significant part of this never-ending stream of urban detritus and has grown into a commonly observed nuisance on our pavements, roads, and public spaces. To rectify the issue of discarded chewing gum waste, Hugo Maupetit and Vivian Fischer – the students at the L'Ecole de design Nantes Atlantique in France have devised an innovative new method to clean up the streets of their city.
The students envisioned an initiative that would recycle this urban refuse into a usable product – skateboard wheels. Buoyed by the loud, enticing colours of chewing gum, the duo imagines a collaboration between Mentos - one of Europe's largest gum manufacturers - and Vans - a globally recognised American skating brand.
Describing the former, Maupetit and Fischer state that Mentos' participation in the joint effort will symbolise the Italian confectioner's recognition of their role in propagating chewing gum waste. Additionally, through their manufacture of gum-based skateboard wheels, Vans will continue its long association with the creativity and DIY ethos of skate culture and urban lifestyles. The partnership is capped with a catchy slogan, 'Off the Street' - that plays on Vans' well-known 'Off the Wall' trademark.
Taking a cue from the bins used by the British company Gumdrop Pvt. Ltd., Maupetit and Fischer installed a gum collection board in Nantes, France - to test their idea while presenting a more engaging and environmentally-conscious alternative to simply littering on the street. According to their vision, the gum that accumulates on the board every week will be cleaned, crushed, mixed with the board itself, moulded, and coloured with natural dyes to craft the skateboard wheels - through a straightforward five-step process.
As a consequence of utilising multiple different substances in the melting and moulding processes, the duo expects that the method will generate three different grades of wheels that include soft, medium, and hard - all embossed with the partnership's slogan and logos. Moreover, using a 20mm base contact patch, Fischer and Maupetit have envisioned 12 different sizes for their wheels: to be available in stores or online.
The pair of designers also conceptualised an ingenious, multi-pronged marketing drive to build up interest in the campaign. Firstly, it involves a lottery that will offer discounts on gum-based wheels or in skate shops, using QR codes and hashtags displayed on the collection boards. Next, they imagine an Instagram campaign hosted by both Vans and Mentos on their respective pages that will shed light on the gum collection boards as well as the recycling and manufacturing processes followed in crafting the wheels. Through this initiative, they expect to reach the majority of their primary target demographic, consisting of the youth residing in urban areas.
The boards will also provide attractive locations for photo opportunities, where the public can share images of themselves aiding clean-up efforts by sticking gum onto the collection boards, using hashtags that can be tracked and analysed for marketing data and trend studies. Lastly, they propose direct links to the Vans x Mentos campaign's specialised website, incorporated on the two companies' home pages.
Despite only being tested in a section of Nantes at present, Maupetit and Fischer's system has the potential to be implemented in any European city. The driving force behind their vision is to rid the streets of the nuisance presented by non-biodegradable chewing gum waste while forging a cleaner, brighter, and a livelier environment for teens and young adults in urban areas.