Students turn chewing gum into skateboard wheels, offer Vans to adopt the technology

French design students Hugo Maupetit and Vivian Fischer have developed an unusual way of making skateboard wheels. They collected discarded chewing gum, recycled it, and turned it into colorful plastic. The students installed special collection boards in urban areas of Nantes, France, where passersby could stick their used gum rather than dropping it on the floor, Dezeen reported.

Maupetit and Fischer collected the gum every week, cleaned and shredded it, mixed it with a binder, and melted it to create wheels. Natural dyes were added to this mixture, which gave the wheels a bright color. “During our test phases we needed between 10 and 30 chewing gums per wheel, depending on the size of the gum and the desired hardness of the wheel,” Maupetit said.

The students made skateboard wheels in four sizes and three different hardness levels. Once it is worn out, the chewing gum wheel can once again be ground up and melted to create a new wheel.

Maupetit and Fischer collected more than 60 chewing gums with one board. They calculated that it is possible to collect several thousand pieces of chewing gum each month. Still, it was not possible to test this possibility, as they didn’t get permission from the city of Nantes to install their collection boards on a massive scale.

Although currently only tested on a small scale, the students imagine that the system would work best as a collaboration between major brands such as skatewear label Vans and Perfetti Van Melle, which is one of the world’s largest manufacturers of confectionery and chewing gum. “It’s extremely important for brands to get involved in this kind of issue, simply because multinationals are the biggest producers of industrial waste,” Maupetit explained.

By recycling this waste, it becomes a virtuous circle, with the company losing less material and making money from what was originally waste, he added.

Chewing gum, which has existed since antiquity, was originally made from the sap of different trees. But most modern gum consists of a synthetic rubber called polyisobutylene that is also used to create car tyres. It is estimated that as little as 10 per cent of this gum is disposed of correctly. In the UK alone, local councils have to spend £60 million a year cleaning up the other 90 per cent.

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