Sticky Situation in Mexico City

Mexico City has a (literally) sticky problem: the city is covered in discarded wads of chewing gum. It’s on sidewalks, public statues, and benches, walls, and handrails. There’s so much chewing gum litter in Mexico City that they have their own specialized sanitation to clean it up. Overnight, these gum fairies flood various parts of the city with “terminators;” dry vapor steam guns meant to make the gum less sticky and easily cleanable.

A shocking 80-90% of chewing gum fails to make it into trashcans, and it definitely shows. When the 15 person team descended on Francisco I. Madero Ave, they removed an estimated 11,000 pieces of gum over three nights, each doing an 8 hour shift! And how do these gum warriors feel about their jobs? “It gets boring,” one reported. We can imagine.

These sanitation works might want to blame their monotonous positions on one Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna. It was this statesman who, sometime in the 1860s, introduced Thomas Adams to chicle. The inventor at first thought the natural tree gum could be used as a rubber tire substitute, but when that failed he produced Adams New York Chewing Gum for public consumption. The rest, as they say, was history.

Because Mexico City’s problem is so bad, and because the removal so time consuming – and boring – officials have organized an upcoming public awareness program to have residents recognize how damaging gum littering can be. Hopefully the program is effective in stemming the overwhelming tide of chewing gum in this and other historic cities!