Anna Bullus is founder of Gumdrop Ltd. When she left school, Anna studied for an art foundation course, graduating with a distinction before going on to study three-dimensional design at the University of Brighton, where she specialised in plastics and material experimentation. In the final year of her degree, Anna found herself in a chemistry lab experimenting with different materials, temperatures, resins and, after hundreds of experiments, she came up with a mouldable material made from recycled chewing gum that can be used to manufacture new rubber and plastic items.
“…you have to have a diverse mix of ideas as this helps you come at a challenge from all angles…”
Discovering my passion for recycling
I am a product designer by trade but I have always been passionate about recycling. Gumdrop was the outcome to a research project I embarked on looking at curbside litter when I noticed how our towns, cities, streets, parks, schools, cinemas, trains, planes and theme parks were being taken over by random white splodges.
These white splodges may look like worthless waste but that does not mean they are cheap. It costs councils £150 million pounds a year to remove chewing gum litter from our streets in the UK.
Today I am the managing director at Gumdrop Ltd, the company I set up in 2009. My role is to oversee the running of the business as well as look after existing and new clients. I’m incredibly proud that Gumdrop Ltd is the first company in the world to recycle and process chewing gum into a range of new compounds that can be used in the rubber and plastics industry.
We work with the education, retail and leisure, transport and government sectors, so universities, airports, theme parks and shopping centres to name a few. Partners include the O2 Arena, Thorpe Park, Legoland, the NEC, the University of Winchester, Wrigley and Tesco, as well as councils across the UK. The Gumdrop bins are proving to be a great success and currently reduce gum litter by up to 46% in the first 12 weeks of use.
Gum-tec® is the material we make with recycled chewing gum. I spend a lot of my time developing the Gum-tec® compounds and looking for new applications where we can use them. In the first instance we use Gum-tec® to manufacture the Gumdrops and Gumdrops on-the-go, pink receptacles designed specifically for the disposal of waste chewing gum. Each Gumdrop is bright pink and looks like strawberry flavoured bubble gum bubbles, a fun, colourful replacement for the common blank eyesore of the white splodge.
Once the Gumdrop is full, the whole Gumdrop along with its contents of waste gum is recycled and processed to manufacture new Gumdrops, the cycle starts again – a closed-loop recycling process. Gum-tec® is now being used to make other products as well as the Gumdrop bins, for example dog bowls, rulers, wellington boots, mobile phone covers, stationary, packaging, frisbees and sports cones.
Women in STEM
I have been lucky enough to have received a few awards, the one I’m most proud of is my Eco Designer of the year award given to me by Homes and Gardens.
I think we can encourage young girls and Women into STEM careers by making them aware of the different roles within these sectors and what they consist of, as well as the routes to get there. We should also be providing roles models to show that these career paths are possible and very rewarding. I think you have to have a diverse mix of ideas as this helps you come at a challenge from all angles which, in most cases, allows the best solution to present itself.
Scaling and overseas expansion
We are currently looking for funding for Gumdrop. To scale the business as we as look at expanding to overseas markets as litter is a global problem. Together we can deliver innovation on a global scale by educating and inspiring the public to reduce chewing gum waste. If you’d like to know more please do get in touch.