Two news stories particularly caught my attention this week – one apparently good news, the other definitely bad.

The good news story was a report that a manufacturer has created a biodegradable chewing gum now being sold by the shopping chain Iceland. Apparently modern chewing gum contains not just natural gum but also some form of plastic, which is why it is so difficult to remove from our pavements and why chewing gum never degrades.

If this story is correct and chewing gum users switch to this new form of gum with no plastic in it, then other manufacturers and retailers will be forced to follow suit.

This would make an enormous difference to the appearance of streets and pavements all across the country, and save a massive cost to councils who have the almost impossible task of removing the gum.

The bad news story was that many plastic items being carefully saved for recycling by households are actually not recyclable and are being dumped in landfill or incinerated by councils.

One reason for this is that China no longer is willing to buy waste from other countries, so the resale market has collapsed; another reason is that many plastics cannot be recognised by the sorting machinery. A great deal of confusion surrounds the whole issue and that reduces people’s willingness to take the trouble to sort out rubbish.

As chair of the Helensburgh and Lomond area committee, I have arranged a meeting later this month with local councillors, community councillors and other interested external partners to discuss these and related issues with council environmental officers to explore what more we can do to increase recycling rates across the area.

A very large number of people , including young people, now take a great interest in the subject of waste, particularly plastic waste, and also in related subjects like litter. It is great to see the increase in the number of people taking part in beach cleans and similar activities.

However more can always be done and we need to reach the stage where dropping chewing gum, cigarette butts and other litter on our streets is as socially unacceptable as spitting in the street or drink driving now is.

I do get annoyed when I see some of Helensburgh’s pavements outside some pubs covered in cigarette ends and looking filthy and wish all pub owners would do what many already do: sweep and wash the pavement outside their premises every day. They take advantage of Helensburgh’s café culture, but the price for that should be keeping the public footpaths clean.