Qinghai Province plans to open highway rest stops where motorists will be offered souvenirs in exchange for dropping off their garbage.
The eight "green posts" along a 420-km stretch of the Qinghai-Tibet highway are intended to curb littering on the key artery.
The rest areas will offer free hot water, wifi, phone charging and toilets, said Yang Xin, head of Greenriver, an NGO that is helping the local government with the initiative. Greenriver volunteers will collect the trash and take it to Qinghai's Golmud City for recycling.
The rest stops will cost more than 5.5 million yuan (846,000 U.S. dollars) to build, and 910,000 yuan to run per year, jointly footed by the Golmud government and donations, said Yang.
Stretching about 2,000 km, the Qinghai-Tibet highway links Qinghai's capital Xining with Tibetan capital Lhasa. It runs through a number of major nature reserves.
In 2013, about 160,000 pieces of garbage were found in a busy section of the highway. "This garbage damages the local environment and poses a great danger to wild animals along the highway," said Yang.
Sources with the Golmud city government said the green posts, if successful, will be established on other highways on the Qinghai-Tibet plateau.