Chewing gum: it’s a type of plastic pollution that we’re just not talking about enough. Most modern chewing gums are made from synthetic plastic polymers that don’t break down or biodegrade. That means when you toss your used chewing gum on the sidewalk or stick it underneath a bench, you’re littering. Not only that, but chewing gum is commonly mistaken for food by wild animals (especially birds), causing them to choke or die.

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pink, green and blue skateboard wheels on white background

Two design students from the L’École de Design Nantes Atlantique in France are imagining ways to combat this silent pollution problem creatively. Hugo Maupetit and Vivian Fischer have created a concept that turns used chewing gum into skateboard wheels.

Related: Sam Kaplan unwrapped 500 sticks of gum to create futuristic geometric structures

diagram of gum being turned into skateboard wheels

They got the idea while brainstorming for a designed-focused way to tackle the gum pollution issue in urban areas. “We thought, why not take this characteristic waste of the city and use it to make it greener,” Maupetit and Fischer told Inhabitat. “The bold colors and texture of chewing gum is the perfect fit for use in skatewheels.” The idea is to bring the gum from the streets back to the streets in a sustainable way.

person sticking chewed gum to a sign

The students envisioned a fictional partnership between Mentos, one of Europe’s biggest chewing gum producers, and Vans Europe, a popular manufacturer of skateboarding shoes and accessories. The students’ project proposes a line of vibrant skateboard wheels sold by Vans that uses old gum collected from the streets.

white sign covered in chewed gum

How would they go about collecting the gum? According to the students, Mentos would install “gum boards” in urban areas to help spread the word and inspire passersby to stick their used gum to the signs instead of tossing it elsewhere. The gum would then be cleaned, molded with a stabilizing agent and stained with natural dye to form the base of the wheels.

“Our initiative is supposed to clean the streets in a sustainable way. That is why we invented a system that will transform used wheels and turn them into new ones,” the students explained. “No more waste is created and the material stays in use.”

+ L’École de Design Nantes Atlantique

Images via Hugo Maupetit and Vivian Fischer