News & Views

Hong Kong Cleanup / Clean Up Your Act

by Contagious I/O

This story originally appeared on Contagious I/O, our customisable research platform featuring the world’s most innovative, creative and effective ad campaigns and marketing ideas

Organisation names and shames litterers in a bid to stop Hong Kong’s trash problem

A new project aims to stop people dropping tons of rubbish on the streets of Hong Kong each day by using DNA to embarrass the perpetrators.

The Hong Kong Cleanup initiative is collecting and analysing random pieces of litter dropped throughout the city, and is then using Snapshot DNA phenotyping, provided by Parabon NanoLabs, to create portraits of the culprits.

While this method can’t identify exactly who dropped the empty can or wad of chewing gum, it can determine enough data from the DNA found on the piece of rubbish to create a visual representation of the individual.

The Face of Litter campaign, which was created by Ogilvy and Mather in Hong Kong, is placing posters of the DNA mock-ups throughout the city and posting the images online. A campaign video, above, warns people of the dangers of throwing away their rubbish and insinuates that they could easily become the next face on a poster.

The Hong Kong Cleanup is a joint initiative by online magazine Ecozine and The Nature Conservancy, and recruits volunteers annually to help tidy the city. Lisa Christensen, founder and CEO of The Hong Kong Cleanup, said, ‘Last year, during the six-week Hong Kong Cleanup Challenge, 418 teams comprising 51,064 participants, collected a total of 3,894,000 kgs of litter from city streets, coastal areas and country trails. Sadly, we suffer from a serious “pick up after me” mentality, and this simply must change.’

The campaign was created for Global Earth Day.


Contagious Insight / 

Cause and prevention / An estimated 16,000 tons of rubbish are dumped around Hong Kong every day, making it a significant problem for the city. But rather than just concentrate efforts on treating this problem (i.e. organising volunteers to pick it up), this project smartly tries to nip the behaviour in the bud by discouraging people from littering in the first place.

The DNA profiling may not be 100% accurate – that is to say it can’t actually determine who dropped a piece of rubbish – but by working out parts of the perpetrator’s appearance, it should do enough to convince people that it’s not worth the risk.

That’s what this idea boils down to – it’s a deterrent strategy that will hopefully make people think twice before they litter. After all, a 20 metre walk to the nearest bin doesn’t seem like a big ask if it means that there’s no chance that your face will be up on a billboard, right?


This story originally appeared on Contagious I/O. Contagious I/O is our bespoke trends, inspiration, insight and analysis service, providing daily innovative marketing intelligence across a comprehensive range of sectors to brands and agencies across the world. For more information about Contagious I/O contact