Wales politics

Welsh assembly members throw out 5p chewing gum levy

Calls to impose a 5p levy on packets of chewing gum have been rejected by Welsh assembly members.

It was proposed as a way to help pay for cleaning up litter, but gum giant Wrigley warned the move would not work.

A request by Conservative AM Darren Millar for approval to introduce a private member's bill was defeated 30 votes to 17 on Wednesday.

Wales' Environment Minister said he wanted to give the industry "another opportunity to step up to the plate".

John Griffiths said discarded chewing gum cost local authorities hundreds of thousands of pounds to clear up and contributed to the "run down feeling of an area".

"I am firmly of the view that the polluter should pay and that manufacturers should do far more to deal with these issues," he said.

Under Mr Millar's proposed levy, the money raised would pay for cleaning up discarded gum and anti-litter publicity campaigns.

Mr Millar said legislation adding 5p to the cost of a packet of chewing gum sold in shops in Wales would help alleviate a growing litter problem.

Rob Peterson, Wrigley senior vice-president and chief innovation officer at its corporate headquarters in Chicago, was among company representatives who met Mr Millar recently in Cardiff.

Wrigley head of corporate affairs Sian O'Keefe said: "We share the frustration that the public often feel in seeing gum litter on the streets.

"But we fundamentally believe that what will change that phenomenon is public education.

Image caption Darren Millar AM (l) discussed his idea with Wrigley vice-president Rob Peterson

"So when people realise that dropping gum on the ground is littering and that they need to do the right thing and put it in the bin that's when we see a reduction in gum litter."

She said a levy would not work and would "penalise all consumers, whether or not they dispose of their gum correctly or not". Some could even see it as a "licence to litter" and make the problem worse.

The company was working with local authorities and printed messages about responsible disposal on all its packets, she added.

Wrigley has also briefed AMs and MPs on progress on developing a "removable gum base," which would be less adhesive and easier to clean.

Mr Millar won the opportunity to put his idea forward through a ballot.

Speaking before the vote, he said: "Chewing gum litter is a blight on our streets and costs councils thousands to remove.

"The introduction of a small levy on a packet of chewing gum can help tackle this problem and change the behaviour of those who choose to spit their gum onto our streets."

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