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Talk of the Day -- One man's trash is another man's treasure

2012/05/13 19:51:20

Taipei, May 13 (CNA) New Taipei launched a program last year to encourage citizens to collect dog feces on the streets in exchange for a lottery ticket that gave them a chance to win gold bars.

The program was recently hailed by U.S.-based Time magazine as one of the eight lotteries that could promote deeds beneficial to society and make the world a better place.

Liu Ho-jan, the head of New Taipei's Environmental Protection Department, said that from August to November last year, 4,206 people participated in the program and cleaned up dog's waste at 14,562 locations in the city.

He said in an article in the magazine published in May, titled "Gambling for Good? 8 Ways Lotteries Could (in Theory) Make the World a Better Place," prompted the department to decide to re-launch the program in July.

It will also expand demonstration spots from 20 last year to 40 and continue to work to establish a common awareness of environmental sanitation among its citizens, he said.

The following are excerpts from local media coverage of the program and similar incentives:

United Daily News:

Lai Lien-chueh, a department official, said her section came up with the idea to combine then rising gold prices and a local expression for excrement "huang chin" -- which sounds like "gold" in mandarin Chinese -- in organizing a citywide cleanup campaign.

She said the campaign gave out gold bars of 37.5 grams, 11.25 grams and 3.75 grams with values of up to NT$60,000 (US$2,033.90). Lai said that when the department notified the winner of the top prize, she was so surprised she thought she was being targeted by a fraud ring. (May 13, 2012).

Liberty Times:

The winner of the 37.5-gram gold bar, Yuan Tsui-lan, is the wife of a local borough chief. Yuan said she and her husband initiated similar events and recruited volunteers to pick up dog feces on the streets a few years ago.

The number of people who collected the waste in the borough rapidly increased after the city department launched the campaign, she said.

Yuan joked that with incentive programs like that, the act of picking up dog droppings has become a habit that she will have a hard time kicking.

Collecting dog feces in exchange for prizes does not appeal to everybody, however.

Tainan launched a similar program and offered cash and prizes as incentives, but had to cancel it because citizens complained of the odor.

In October 2009, Taichung began offering vouchers of NT$100 for every kilogram of feces collected. Some 1,113 kilograms of droppings were collected within four months, but the campaign, which drew fire from animal protection groups, was later dropped.

Taichung has now raised the fine for those who fail to pick up their pets' waste to NT$3,000 and are offering 95 percent of the collected fine to individuals who report the case with sufficient evidence to back up their claim to the city government.

Taipei and Kaohsiung have no intention of organizing such incentives. The latter's Environmental Protection Bureau said pet owners are obligated to clean up after their pets and should be punished according to the Waste Disposal Act if they do not.

Under the law, owners who leave their pets' waste behind in public areas are subject to fines of between NT$1,200 and NT$6,000. (May 13, 2012).

(By Jamie Wang)