Leicester Chemist Appears on BBC OneShow

Dr Shengfu Yang presented on BBC OneShow on 23rd July, 2018, talking about the chemistry and the recycling of chewing gums.


This was filmed at the first floor Chemistry Lab, where Dr Yang explained the polymeric nature of chewing gums, why they are so sticky and how difficult it is to breakdown the gum waste. He also performed interesting experiments which compared the degradation of apple and chewed gum in gastric acid (HCl acid with PH ranging from 1.5 – 3.5), and how these can be destroyed by burning. Although chewing gum waste can be burnt, this is not an ideal solution for its removal as this method clearly has both environmental and energy indications.

Our streets and pavements are now suffering from a monstrous plague of spat-out chewing gums, and it costs ~£60 million per annual for removal each year in the UK. Chewing gum wastes have now raised a great concern. The major component making the “chew” of the gums is plastics, which is flexible, stretchable but hard to break down into small molecules. Once they are spat on the street and stepped on, they become little disks that stick strongly with the surfaces, making it very difficult for removal. At the molecular level, this is due to the hydrophobic nature of plastics and the road surfaces, which defines the strong attractive interaction between them.

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Contact Details

Department of Chemistry
University of Leicester
Leicester, LE1 7RH, UK

Email: chemistry@le.ac.uk

Tel: [+44] (0)116 252 2100

Fax: [+44] (0)116 252 3789

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