Chinese city offers cash for cigarette butts

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A northern Chinese city has come up with an innovative way to encourage residents to keep the streets clean - it is paying five fen (just under one US cent) for every used cigarette butt they pick up.

Authorities in Shaanxi province's Xianyang city launched the campaign in September and so far enthusiastic residents have handed over seven million butts, the official China Daily said.

In return, the local government has paid out 100,000 yuan (15,000 dollars) for two million of the butts and still owes for the remaining five million.

"We started the drive as part of an effort to make our city more clean and civilised, increase public environmental awareness and warn against the dangers of smoking," said Hou Xi'an, deputy head of the office overseeing the campaign.

One person reportedly handed over 7,500 cigarette butts all at once - worth 375 yuan.

However, some people are cheating by rooting around Internet cafes, restaurants and even dustbins to collect butts and get a reward, according to some media reports.

Still, the campaign appears to be working.

After seeing an old man pick up the cigarette butt he had just discarded, resident Zhao Ang said he had learned a lesson.

"From then on, I stopped throwing anything away in public places," he was quoted as saying.

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