Gukeng Township (古坑) office in Yunlin County found itself fresh out of tea eggs as a result of its program to promote cleanliness in the town by exchanging one egg for every 100 cigarette butts collected from the streets, forcing it to halt the program last week.
According to a report by the Chinese-language China Times earlier this week, the office had run similar programs offering rewards for light bulbs, cardboard posters, advertising flags and depleted batteries, but none of those drives met with the success of the latest program, which was launched in February.
The office’s cleaning crew manager, Chang Chen-te (張圳德), was quoted by the China Times as saying that the township received 698,100 cigarette butts as of the end of last month, and gave out more than 7,000 eggs as rewards.
The township is famed for its scenic areas, but is also home to many chain smokers, Chang said.
Assuming each smoker goes through one pack — about 20 cigarettes — per day, it should be quite easy to collect 100 cigarette butts discarded by smokers, the office said.
“Many residents took a broom with them as they walked, while some elderly residents used tongs, stopping their scooters to pick up discarded butts,” the China Times quoted Chang as saying, adding that some chose to walk around at night, as glowing cigarette butts were easy to spot in the dark.
The daytime care center for elderly people in Gukeng, which was commissioned by the office to boil the tea eggs, said it was hard to cook enough to meet the demand.
Sometimes it would boil up to 500 eggs per week, but they would still not be enough, it said.
The office tried to alleviate the pressure by changing the reward to uncooked eggs, but as residents started exchanging them at traditional grocery stores, the office resumed giving out tea eggs, the China Times said.
Some residents collected cigarette butts from ashtrays in Douliou City (斗六) and other places, but the ruse was uncovered by the cleaning crew.
Gukeng Township Mayor Lin Hui-ju (林慧如) said that cigarette butts picked up off the streets were slightly yellowed and usually undamaged, while those found in ashtrays were whiter in color and were bent from being stubbed out.
Although the program has been temporarily suspended, it will be continued once the office has found a new reward to give out, Lin said.