Gum manufacturer Wrigley is contributing €6m over three years to help clear its discarded product from the streets of the Republic of Ireland and to persuade the public to dispose of gum in litter bins.

A clean-up task force and public education programme funded by the company has just been launched by environment minister Dick Roche. In negotiations with Wrigley, he agreed to drop government plans for a 10% clean-up tax on gum packs in favour of the voluntary contribution.

A public education programme will carry the message: "Thanks for binning your gum when you're done" - which has also been used in the UK - together with a warning about litter fines if you don't follow the advice.

The original plan for a tax, proposed by a previous minister, had alarmed the manufacturer, which feared that other countries could follow suit. Roche agreed to the compromise, after intensive lobbying that involved the US ambassador to Ireland, on the grounds that the aim was to change public attitudes, not penalise gum users.

With 80 million packs sold in the Republic every year, discarded gum accounts for almost 30% of all litter on Irish streets. The annual clean-up cost is estimated at €20m.