A mandatory 10% levy is to be imposed on chewing gum packs in the Irish Republic - unless the manufacturers agree to help fund the cost of removing discarded gum from the streets.
Proposals for the levy, which would add five cents (2.5p) to the cost of a pack and raise around E5m, have been published by environment minister Martin Cullen.
He is allowing four weeks for public consultation before seeking government approval to implement the measure.
The minister cited the success of the charge on plastic bags, which has greatly reduced their use, as evidence of the effectiveness of pollution levies.
Chewing gum accounts for 28% of all litter in Ireland, he said, with street cleaning and litter management costing the taxpayers an estimated E70m a year. Less than E3m of this is met through litter fines.
As with the plastic bag charge, the levy would be collected by retailers for the Revenue Commissioners, then redirected to local councils to buy Gumbuster street cleaning machines.
The need for such funds can be seen from the fact that in Dublin, the cost of removing 180,000 pieces of gum from busy Grafton Street recently cost the City Council almost E25,000 in just a month.
Wrigley, backed by Irish business leaders, has lobbied government ministers in a bid to have the levy scrapped, warning that it may be illegal under EU legislation.
But the consultants who prepared the proposal argue that manufacturers must share some responsibility for cleaning up the pollution caused by their products.
The only alternative to the levy, they say, is that Wrigley agrees to provide the €5m it would raise, and they warn: “Time for a negotiated funding deal is very short.”