A city in China has begun offering money to its residents who pick up discarded cigarette butts as part of a campaign to keep its streets clean. Over seven-million cigarette butts have already been collected.

The unique initiative was launched in Xianyang city in Shaanxi province.

Hou Xi’an, an official, said: “We started the drive as part of an effort to make our city more clean and civilized, increase public environmental awareness and warn against the dangers of smoking.”

Another official, Han Baofeng, told China Daily on Wednesday that this effort won’t stop until the end of December.

“We will improve the imperfect measures of the drive and continue our good efforts,” said Mr. Han.

The drive, which began last month, offers locals 0.05 yuan ($0.0075) for each cigarette butt they pick up from city streets.

In one month alone, people have handed over a total of 7 million cigarette butts to the government. One person turned over 7,500 butts in one go.

China News Service said that some people turned out to be opportunists who resorted to fraud by collecting the butts from net cafes, restaurants or even garbage bins to get the reward.

Locals have welcomed the initiative.

Wang Guifu, who collected around 2,200 butts, said it is a good way to encourage locals to keep the city clean.

Another local resident, Zhao Ang, said he saw an old man pick up the cigarette butt that he (Zhao) had just thrown on the street.

“From then on, I stopped throwing anything away in public places,” said Mr. Zhao.