A design by French students transforms chewing gum waste into skateboard wheels

Hugo Maupetit and Vivian Fischer from L'Ecole de design Nantes Atlantique envision a collab between Vans and Mentos to recycle chewing gum into colourful skateboard wheels.

by Jerry ElengicalPublished on : May 12, 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.

Driven by the vibrant, enticing colours of chewing gum, they have imagined a collaboration between Vans and Mentos | Vans x Mentos by Hugo Maupetit and Vivian Fischer | STIRworld
Driven by the vibrant, enticing colours of chewing gum, they have imagined a collaboration between Vans and Mentos Image: Hugo Maupetit and Vivian Fischer, Courtesy of L'Ecole de design Nantes Atlantique

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.

  • The duo installed a gum collection board in the city as part of the project | Vans x Mentos by Hugo Maupetit and Vivian Fischer | STIRworld
    The duo installed a gum collection board in the city as part of the project Image: Hugo Maupetit and Vivian Fischer, Courtesy of L'Ecole de design Nantes Atlantique
  • Gum that accumulates every week will collected and be used to craft the skateboard wheels | Vans x Mentos by Hugo Maupetit and Vivian Fischer | STIRworld
    Gum that accumulates every week will collected and be used to craft the skateboard wheels Image: Hugo Maupetit and Vivian Fischer, Courtesy of L'Ecole de design Nantes Atlantique

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.

All this will occur in a simple five-step process | Vans x Mentos by Hugo Maupetit and Vivian Fischer | STIRworld
All this will occur in a simple five-step process Image: Hugo Maupetit and Vivian Fischer, Courtesy of L'Ecole de design Nantes Atlantique

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 have also developed a multi-pronged marketing drive to promote their project | Vans x Mentos by Hugo Maupetit and Vivian Fischer | STIRworld
The pair of designers have also developed a multi-pronged marketing drive to promote their project Image: Hugo Maupetit and Vivian Fischer, Courtesy of L'Ecole de design Nantes Atlantique

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.

Collection boards will provide attractive opportunities for photos which can be circulated using campaign related hashtags, aiding in analysing data and trends | Vans x Mentos by Hugo Maupetit and Vivian Fischer | STIRworld
Collection boards will provide attractive opportunities for photos which can be circulated using campaign related hashtags, aiding in analysing data and trends Image: Hugo Maupetit and Vivian Fischer, Courtesy of L'Ecole de design Nantes Atlantique

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.

In spite of being tested only in a specific locale in Nantes, the system can be implemented in virtually any European city | Vans x Mentos by Hugo Maupetit and Vivian Fischer | STIRworld
In spite of being tested only in a specific locale in Nantes, the system can be implemented in virtually any European city Image: Hugo Maupetit and Vivian Fischer, Courtesy of L'Ecole de design Nantes Atlantique

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.

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