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Hong Kong Fights Litter Pandemic With Hi-Tech Public Shaming

Hong Kong’s new eco-ad campaign utilizes DNA analysis to create digital portraits of litterbugs.

Each city seems to tackle trash in its own, unique way. In New York City, that way seems to be almost non-existent, as this coffin left in the street and used-mattress mountain will attest. Hong Kong, however, has decided to go hi-tech in its approach to trash reduction. Recently, in honor of Earth Day, Hong Kong Cleanup, Ecozine, The Nature Conservancy, and Ogilvy teamed up to create a new eco-friendly campaign to fight the city’s ongoing litter issues with serious creativity. The Face of Litter utilizes DNA traces from street rubbish to construct life-like digital portraits of litterbugs. Scientists can determine a litterer's eye, hair, and skin color, even their ancestry, from DNA left on the smallest piece of trash. The technology is now so advanced it can even assess the shape of the trash person’s face, as well as a relatively accurate portrait.

The city has decided to run these damning images on mass transit, social media, and various print publications throughout town, thus proving that nothing works better than a good public shaming.

The recent littering pandemic in Hong Kong has proven too vast for the local government to ignore, and they’ve seen, according to Protein, “more than 16,000 tons of waste...dumped [into] the streets and public spaces.” Trash is such an issue in the region it’s been reported that China and Indonesia alone produce more than a third of the rubbish that ends up in the ocean. Unless we all want to visit trash island on vacation this summer, perhaps it’s time more cities started taking this drastic approach?

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