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Monday, November 01, 2004

Chewing the cud

It is too early in the morning for this article to appear on the Western Mail website but I could not wait. There was a time when the New Labour Government were very keen on tackling the causes of crime as well as the criminals themselves. Nowadays, of course, they prefer to play to the gallery and opt for simplistic, knee-jerk solutions in the hope of portraying themselves as Britain's answer to the Terminator. It was refreshing therefore to see that they are still commissioning research so as to understand the psyche of the Country's most notorious criminals. Thus Cardiff MP and UK Environment Minister, Alun Michael, today released a study showing why people do not bother disposing of their gum properly.

Do not get me wrong. The incorrect disposal of chewing gum is a huge environmental problem. Anybody who has tried to clean up after a Blue Light Disco for 7 to 11 year olds, as I have done, will know that the worst possible task is removing this vile stuff from an otherwise perfectly polished dance floor. Swansea Council invested millions of pounds some years ago in transforming Castle Square into a granite amphitheatre only to find that it developed a rash of discarded chewing gum. They had to invest in a special machine to remove it.

The reasons for people failing to put their gum in the bin are though quite entertaining. According to the research this group of 'gummies' fall into five groups. The first is known as "excuses, excuses", they know they are doing wrong so they drop the gum discreetly and feel guilty afterwards. The second "bravado" group enjoy spitting and kicking their unwanted gum with little regard for the environment. Third up are the "selfish cleaners" who do not want the gum anywhere near them after they have finished with it. The fourth type is the "revolted" group whose disposal is influenced by their disgust at getting chewing gum stuck in their hair or on their shoes. Finally, there is the "whatever" group who do not know or care about the consequences of their discarded gum.

Mr. Michael tells us that this research will "provide us with the information we need to target those who drop gum with a coordinated campaign." He does not say how but there is a clue in his final sentence: "The behaviours and attitudes are complex but the simple message is 'Don't drop your used gum - stick it in a bin'."

I have often thought that if I were not a politician I would like to be a consultant. I am adept at labelling behaviour and I am an expert in stating the bleeding obvious. If I can master the jargon then I can make a fortune.

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