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Hong Kong's 'name and shame' litter campaign

Ogilvy & Mather Hong Kong

Think twice before you litter in Hong Kong, which has resorted to naming and shaming in an effort to clean up the city on Global Earth day.

"The Face of Litter", a city-wide campaign launched by global marketing communications firm Ogilvy & Mather, uses DNA testing on litter to construct a digital portrait of the perpetrator. Posters of the perpetrators's face are then plastered around the city and on the internet.

"Litter is such a major problem in Hong Kong," said Reed Collins, chief creative officer at Ogilvy & Mather Group, Hong Kong. "Thanks to newly available DNA technology we can now put a face to this anonymous crime."

With the expertise of U.S.-based research centers and Snapshot DNA phenotyping, the collected data can be used to construct a visual representation of the person who has littered.

There are limitations when creating the visual representation of the litterer as age cannot be determined by DNA alone, so other factors are used to form a more accurate portrait of the litterer, including as the type of litter and where it was found.

Trash picked up for DNA testing range from embarrassing to disgusting, such as used condoms, cigarette butts and coffee cups.

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"The campaign combines a public service message with science technology, enabling us to communicate with Hongkongers in a very different way," said Collins.

HK's serious trash problem

The innovative campaign raises awareness for the Hong Kong Cleanup initiative which advocates for environmental causes and organizes massive operations for volunteers to pick up litter from urban areas, coast lines and parks.

"Sadly, we suffer from a serious 'pick up after me' mentality, and this simply must change," said Lisa Christensen, founder and CEO of the Hong Kong Cleanup.

The city accumulates over 16,000 tons of trash daily and has serious waste management problems, according to Hong Kong Cleanup.

Hong Kong's landfills are fast reaching maximum capacity as the city produces more rubbish than "the infrastructure and surrounding ecosystems can handle."

Hopefully the risk of being humiliated over trash will encourage the social change that Hong Kong needs.