Chewing gum litter is a major problem in western countries. According to a study conducted in 2005, Americans chew, on average, 160-180 pieces or about 800 grams of gum per person, per year. The resulting waste probably adds up to more than 250,000 tons annually. A large share of the waste ends up on the streets, on walls and on sidewalks pounded smooth by the feet of pedestrians, costing millions of dollars a year on clean up. Any loose piece probably ends up on somebody’s shoes. But for all the annoyances it causes, gum can also inspire art, thanks to its malleability, stickiness and its wide color palette. Checkout theses gum covered walls that constitute some of the grossest attraction in the U.S.
Bubblegum Alley in San Luis Obispo, California
Located in downtown San Luis Obispo, California, this 15-foot high and 70-foot long alley is lined with chewed gum left by passers-by. With gum on either side of the alley, the total length of the gum covered wall is 20 meters.
The history of who actually started this gum fiesta is a little sketchy. Some historians believe that the tradition of the Alley started after WWII as a high school prank by the graduating students of San Luis Obispo High School. A possible rivalry between students of San Luis Obispo High School and Cal Poly, as to who can stick more gum, escalated resulting in the creation of Bubblegum Alley. By 1970s, Bubblegum Alley was already a popular attraction among locals. Following complaints from shop owners, the alley underwent not once but two full cleanings in the ’70s, but in vain.
The wall is not a random collection of gooey gums, some people in San Luis Obispo consider the wall a form of art. One can see an array of shapes, words and designs – there are faces and flowers, fraternity and sorority letters, and “I love SLO” spelled out in different colors and sizes. A closer glance at the gum-infested wall will expose an abundance of objects, such as pennies and dimes, sticking out of the wall as eyes for gum faces.
There are gum wrappers placed strategically to add to the designs, and occasionally someone will hang a condom from the wall in hopes to disgust passers-by, but mostly the alley is appropriate for all ages and encourages everyone’s creative contributions.
Gum Wall in Seattle
The Market Theater Gum Wall is located in downtown Seattle, in Post Alley under Pike Place Market. Similar to Bubblegum Alley in San Luis Obispo, California, the Market Theater Gum Wall is covered in a thick layer of chewing gum. The tradition began around 1993 when patrons waiting in line to enter the theatre stuck gum to the wall and placed coins in the gum blobs. Eventually, the coins disappeared and the gum remained. As the wall grew, a variety of miniature self-contained artworks, names and symbols appeared in the gum.
Gum Wall in Greenville, Ohio
The third gum wall is located in Greenville, Ohio. It forms the outer wall of Maid Rite Sandwich Shop, a drive-in restaurant serving, according to patrons, some of the tastiest sandwiches in Greenville. The entire exterior of the shop is covered with blobs of sticky mess, right up to the drive-in window. This appetite-killing display, however, doesn’t seem to keep sandwich-lovers away.