Hong Kong used DNA analysis to put a face to the typically anonymous crime.
Littering is a serious problem in Hong Kong. Residents toss nearly 15,000 tons of trash per day, and the city's three landfills are dangerously close to capacity. Much of the garbage also winds up in the ocean as marine debris, despite littering fines of HK$1,500 (about $200USD). All in all, China is responsible for roughly 30 percent of the global scourge. Fines don't seem to be a sufficient deterrent. So what would be?
Could public shame stop litterers in their tracks? That's the question Hong Kong Cleanup asked in "The Face of Litter," an environmental campaign that used DNA phenotyping to generate visual renderings of litterers' faces. The high-tech pillories were installed at transit stations across Hong Kong from April 22 to 29.
The "Face of Litter" campaign didn't shame any real-life offenders, however. The project—designed by Ogilvy & Mather Group and developed in partnership with Ecozine and the Nature Conservancy—drew visual profiles from the DNA of a volunteer control group. But Ecozine's editor, Nissa Marion, hopes that the project still served as a deterrent for would-be litterbugs: "The intent certainly is that people will have that, 'What if they really did that and it was me?" thought process," she says. As the promo video puts it, "Don't let it be your face."