The Global Fight Against Litter - Hong Kong

The Global Fight Against Litter - Hong Kong

The Global Fight Against Litter

Hong Kong

Imagine if you thoughtlessly discarded a piece of chewing gum then your face appeared on a billboard to shame you for littering. This is exactly what has been happening in Hong Kong for the past few years. The not for profit anti-litter campaigners Hong Kong Cleanup teamed up with an ad agency to create the billboards as part of the ‘Face of Litter’ campaign.

How it works

A small sample of DNA is taken from the litter and sent to a lab, where it is sequenced to identify traits like eye colour, skin colour, and face shape, to create a likeness of the litterbug. The image is then put on posters across the city and online, warning people not to litter, or they risk becoming the next ‘face’ of the campaign.

The technology was created by US-based lab Parabon, in conjunction with the US Department of Defense, and it is most often used in criminal investigations.

The technology is not fool proof or guaranteed to give a conclusive result, as traits like height and age can’t be determined by DNA. But researchers say that they hope that the results they obtain will deter people from littering. The results are also combined with demographics and information about the type of litter to increase the accuracy of the outcome.  

The ad agency say that they ask permission to use the likeness of the owners of the DNA before it appears on a billboard to satisfy privacy laws and address ethical concerns.

Why did this campaign start?

A recent global study indicated that China and Indonesia are responsible for more than a third of the plastic bottles and other waste that ends up in the sea. A report released by authorities in Hong Kong also found that over 80% of waste that ends up in the sea comes from the land. 70% of this waste is plastic.

The Hong Kong Cleanup

The Hong Kong Cleanup campaign is working hard to change behaviours and raise awareness about litter. They held a 6-week Hong Kong Cleanup Challenge last year, where 418 teams made up of over 51,000 people collected almost 4 million kilos of litter from the city’s streets, coastline, and countryside.