Gum Buster solves sticky problem

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The Independent Online
It must have happened to everyone. Striding out on a bracing sunny morning full of good intentions only to have one of your footsteps go silently gooey. Or worse, stepping indoors only to tread the damned stuff into someone's carpet.

No doubt about it, the Gum Buster is an idea whose time has come. Dreamed up by a Dublin cleaning contractor, the machine is his response to years of frustration as he tried and failed to remove tacky blobs from floors and pavements.

Richard Tyler Tyler adapted technology used in carpet cleaning to come up with his solution, now cleaning up Dublin's pedestrian shopping streets, where an estimated 55,000 masticated mouthfuls drop each year.

Using what he describes as "super-saturated wet heat" directed from a serious-looking weapon with laser-like precision, it "attacks the structure of the gum, rather than blasting or chipping away at it" - which avoids damage to stone and other surfaces. The gum then breaks up like cigarette ash, he claims.

City authorities were so impressed that the local enterprise board funded a trial prototype and provided a pounds 20,000 employment grant. Dublin Corporation has backed him with a gumbusting budget of pounds 18,000.

Mr Tyler, planning a national agency, will have his first five production machines ready next month, followed by an export sales venture, Gum Busters International. He is working on a faster machine, having been inundated with inquiries from councils in London, Chester, Stockholm and Moscow.

So far gum producers such as Wrigleys have been reluctant to fund street- cleaning, stressing that their packets already urge careful disposal. But John Fitzgerald of Dublin Corporation says gum manufacturers should help pay. "This is one area where the polluter pays principle should come to bear on the solution," he argued.