Littering and excess waste is an ongoing problem that needs to be faced, once and for all.
Taking this statement literally, the Hong Kong Cleanup used DNA phenotyping to put a face to litterbugs.
The campaign can be seen around the city, warning people not to litter, at the risk of becoming the next face of the campaign.

Face of Litter DNA

‘The Face of Litter’ takes an unconventional approach to the problem of littering. Turning to science for answers, Ogilvy has targeted key locations in Hong Kong to collect, analyse and create DNA profiles of litterers. By combining the expertise of US-based research centres and advanced Snapshot™ DNA phenotyping, data has been used to create a visual representation of the person who has littered. The DNA data is then combined with other factors, such as demographics based on the type of litter and where it was collected, to determine the approximate age of the litterer for even greater accuracy.

The campaign comes in the wake of a recent global study that highlights the urgency of the global marine debris issue, and indicates China and Indonesia as the top culprits, together responsible for more than a third of the plastic bottles, bags and other trash washed out to sea.

Meanwhile locally, a report released last week by the Hong Kong Government also stated that 95 per cent of marine refuse in Hong Kong comes from local sources, with over 80 per cent originating from land-based activities. Additionally, more than 70 per cent comprises plastic and foam plastic items.

Poster portraits of the DNA-profiled litterbugs have been placed across the city and online to promote the message, along with a video that demonstrates the experiment and warns people not to litter, at the risk of becoming the next face of the campaign.

Lisa Christensen, Founder and CEO of The Hong Kong Cleanup, says, “We are thrilled to be part of this innovative campaign, which is sure to have a positive impact on people and the community. Last year, during the six-week Hong Kong Cleanup Challenge, 418 teams comprising 51,064 participants, collected a total of 3,894,000 kilograms of litter from city streets, coastal area’s and country trails. Sadly, we suffer from a serious ‘pick up after me’ mentality, and this simply must change.”

Co-founder Nissa Marion adds, “With the Hong Kong Cleanup celebrating its 15th anniversary, it’s a perfect time to take a fresh new approach to public awareness.”

Reed Collins, Chief Creative Officer Ogilvy & Mather Group Hong Kong, said, “This campaign is one of a kind. It’s interactive. It’s innovative. It’s our own science experiment that we’re using to create social change. Litter is such a major problem in Hong Kong and thanks to technology we can now put a face to this anonymous crime and get people to think twice about littering.”