The public would be invited to stick their gum on the Manchester United manager's face rather than throw it on the ground. The move would be supplemented by fines for those who spit gum onto the streets.
A government-commissioned study, to be unveiled today by rural affairs minister Alun Michael, will identify gum as one of the main elements of high street litter problems. The research carried out by Encams, an environmental charity, also shows a 12% growth in the number of locations where discarded fast food packaging was found and 11% for drinks containers.
One of the worst problems revealed by the study, entitled The State of England's Streets, was the growing number of gum deposits. At 94% of sites tested - 10,000 places in more than 50 local authority areas - wads of discarded gum were found trodden into the pavement, an increase of more than 10% on last year.
Ministers are now to launch a separate review, due to report in April, on how to curb the problem. Among the options to be considered are the boards with pictures of faces on which people could stick their gum. Sir Alex will be a prime candidate for inclusion, said a DEFRA spokesman. The scheme has already been tried by local authorities such as Bournemouth Council, where Sir Alex and American president George W Bush have featured on the boards.