Chinese officials in the central city of Xianyang thought that they had a simple means of solving the problem of cigarette butts on the streets: offer residents money for each butt collected and turned in as part of its effort to win the “National Clean City” award. After all, they were offering only 5 fen (less than a penny) for each cigarette butt. That was before residents sent in over 7 million butts and demanded payment.
Now the officials are balking at paying out more money after already forking over $50,000 for butts. Officials accuse residents of emptying cafe ashtrays and other sources for their butts.