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Hong Kong calls out litterbugs using DNA testing

A new anti-littering campaign in Hong Kong uses DNA collected from trash to create digital portraits of perpetrators.

In the Middle Ages, wrongdoers were placed in stocks and subjected to public humiliation and scorn. Technology may have evolved since then, but a good old-fashioned public shaming remains the most powerful deterrent for bad behavior. At least that’s what Hong Kong Cleanup, The Nature Conservancy and Ecozine are hoping.

These groups have partnered with the advertising and public relations firm Ogilvy to launch. “The Face of Litter” uses DNA samples gleaned off discarded debris, combined with demographic data based on the type of detritus and where it was found, to create digital portraits of perpetrators. The portraits will be displayed around the city and online to hold the litterbugs publicly accountable.

“We can now put a face to this anonymous crime and get people to think twice about littering,” Reed Collins, chief creative officer of Ogilvy & Mather Group Hong Kong said of the campaign.

“Sadly, we suffer from a serious ‘pick up after me’ mentality, and this simply must change,” said Hong Kong Cleanup co-founder and CEO Lisa Christensen.

Earlier this year, a global study found that China and Indonesia were the top contributors of trash washed out to sea. Meanwhile, the Hong Kong government released a report last month that found 80 percent of ocean debris in Hong Kong is generated by land-based activities.

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