The Chinese Government is inviting several research institutions to come up with innovative ways of combating that most American of problems, chewing gum waste.
Chewing gum cleanup operations are costing China a fortune
The Ministry of Science and Technology has invited eight institutions to take part in the competition, mysteriously codenamed "863 programme" to find a way to reduce the cost of removing the sticky substance from the country's city streets.
An estimated two billion pieces of gum are chewed annually by the country's 1.3 billion population, and after a week-long national holiday last year, for example, more than 600,000 pieces were strewn across Tiananmen Square in Beijing.
The ensuing clean-up operation cost more than $100,000.
It is hoped that the winner of the $120,000 project will develop a lotion over the next 18 months which will dissolve effectively discarded chewing gum left on the ground.
Last November Beijing instituted a new law which fined public gum-spitters from 20 to 50 yuan (US$2.40 to US$6).