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Toronto wins big with new anti-litter ad campaign

Posted by Derek Flack / August 27, 2014

anti litter ads torontoA City of Toronto anti-littering campaign doesn't sound like it'd generate much interest (just more finger-waving from the town that hates fun), but occasionally clever creative work can overcome even the most boring of subjects. Such is the case with Live Green Toronto's new anti-litter ads, which are designed to shame garbage tossers by reminding them that "littering says a lot about you."

It's the most simple of devices, but the message spelled out by combining bits of trash is actually rather memorable. When recently posted to Tumblr, for instance, the set of adds racked up over 130,000 notes in less than 24 hours. Oh, and they also allow the the city to call its littering residents and/or visitors "pigs" without being overly insulting. Here's a look at the ad campaign everyone's talking about.

anti litter ad torontoanti litter ad torontoanti litter ad torontoanti litter ad torontoanti litter ad torontoWhat do you think of the ads? Let us know in the comments.



Oceane / August 27, 2014 at 10:06 am
instead of advertising, they should fix the garbage cans downtown and add more. If the step is not broken, the little flap you have to stuff your garbage through is broken. The bins are absolutely filthy. I go out of my way to avoid using them. Any bins without flaps are overflowing. Garbage blows off them and down the street.
everyone replying to a comment from Oceane / August 27, 2014 at 10:17 am
bs excuse for a litterbug. Sometimes they are gross but i always use them because littering is grosser.
Rachel / August 27, 2014 at 10:19 am
Agreed with Oceane: fix the garbage cans downtown! They're all broken.
Sam / August 27, 2014 at 10:20 am
Another stellar performance under Mayor Rob Ford! That's right that's the city of Toronto Logo on that! Good job Robbie and team.
Donna / August 27, 2014 at 10:22 am
Great so now we can get sued by advertising other companies products and logos in a negative way??
Priority replying to a comment from Oceane / August 27, 2014 at 10:24 am
I agree.

Examples from East Asia. I've compared two Asian cities - Taipei and Guangzhou, they are both quite clean in terms of littering.

It's amazing to see that in Taipei it's not easy to find a bin and people still keep the street perfectly clean by not throwing anything. But this atmosphere is unique, and cannot be built in short term. What Guangzhou does then is to set up a lot of bins on the street. According to my observation, in the busiest areas, you can easily access to three or more bins in a short 100m distance. And that does prevent people from littering.
Vaclav / August 27, 2014 at 10:25 am
"A City of Toronto anti-littering campaign doesn't sound like it'd generate much interest (just more finger-waving from the town that hates fun)"...sounds like you are saying littering is fun!
observer / August 27, 2014 at 10:28 am
Those filthy, fat, broken bins are so badly designed, they should be replaced rather than repaired. The newer, slimmer metal bins are a bit better.

The ads are good.

They should run a similar ad campaign shaming the sidewalk spitters - wow, that is so disgusting seeing people hork up a mouthful of spit onto the sidewalk, leaving those slime puddles there for anyone to step in. Come on people, be a bit more civilized.
James Eberhardt replying to a comment from Oceane / August 27, 2014 at 10:28 am
The absence of a functional garbage can does not give anyone the tacit permission to litter.
donnatella / August 27, 2014 at 10:28 am
Littering candy wrappers -- in the streets of the country's biggest most polluted city, which has basically paved over prime agricultural land and alluvial soils from the last ice age, and continually contaminates our water table and chokes our atmosphere -- seems like a pretty minor concern.
Cease and desist / August 27, 2014 at 10:29 am
How long until these ads are gone when Lays and Reeses and Pepperidge Farms and Gatorade and Red Bull and the rest have their lawyers sending letters to the city to stop using their likeness?

Good idea in theory, but not a not smart one.
Greggy replying to a comment from Oceane / August 27, 2014 at 10:30 am
Looks like you fit some of the descriptors in the ads nicely.
Question for Derek, and BlogTO / August 27, 2014 at 10:31 am
Okay Derek, I'm going to take you to task for this. Just out of curiosity, why did you feel the need to slide this dig into an otherwise interesting article:
"just more finger-waving from the town that hates fun".

What is it with you? Ex-Montrealer, perhaps? Determined to keep alive the old negative stereotypes of Toronto? Just can't resist the temptation to get a dig in even where it makes no sense?
I'm getting fed up with writers on BlogTO like yourself and Aubrey who just can't seem to drag yourselves out of this old circle of negativity.
Joey / August 27, 2014 at 10:31 am
I saw these ads on Reddit yesterday and thought they were fantastic.
The Shakes / August 27, 2014 at 10:35 am
The ads may be clever and cheeky, but i don't think they are going to make a difference to the amount of litter we see. People who litter generally don't consider cleanliness a priority. And telling them that they are Lazy, Dumb, Dipsticks and Pigs isn't really going to encourage them to make cleanliness a higher priority. Might be more effective to try and appeal to their civic pride instead.
horizoncarrie / August 27, 2014 at 10:39 am
If you cant find a garbage or the garbage can is dirty, take your frigging garbage home and toss it out there. PIGS
Marc replying to a comment from Oceane / August 27, 2014 at 10:41 am
In many countries with more advanced infra that Toronto could imagine to have, people take their trash home with them if they can't find a bin.

It's called responsibility.
Vincent / August 27, 2014 at 10:44 am
Sam: Just because Rob Ford MAY have signed off on this does not mean he came up with the creative concept. He is too busy trying to figure out a way to spend your tax dollars on a raccoon "problem" because it bothers him personally. Please get off your ass and do some research and vote with an informed mind. Even the few good things that he has done for the city has been cloaked in over exaggeration and lies. If you do just a little digging, you will find out how little he has actually saved the tax payers.
tem / August 27, 2014 at 10:49 am
The ads are clever, pretty and good.
They should spend money to empty the garbage cans more regularly. They are filthy, broken and over-flowing. That would make it easier to keep the streets clean.
Sarah Dann / August 27, 2014 at 10:51 am
I think the ads are brilliant!!! And it's about time Toronto took a run at litterbugs. We have beautiful parks that MANY people use and abuse by picnicing and not picking up after themselves. Nothing makes more angry than a morning walk at beautiful Brimley Beach through the considerable trash left by families who were more than happy to celebrate in Toronto's parks but couldn't be bothered to pick up their own garbage. It's disgraceful.

As disgraceful are all the above comments that blame litter on inadequate garbage cans. Give me a break people - ask not what your City can do for you, but what you can do for your City. Putting your garbage in the garbage should not be considered a favour. It is this kind of thinking that has led to Toronto having to spend money on an ad campaign - glad it is a smart, sassy and hard hitting one. It is what these filthy people deserve. The ad says it, they are selfish. Let's hope they are able to learn.

Reply to "Question for Derek" / August 27, 2014 at 10:51 am
BlogTO is building up to its self-loather's FapFest known as "50 reasons why Toronto is NO FUN". Truly a literary highlight not to be missed.
Jamie replying to a comment from Oceane / August 27, 2014 at 11:01 am
100% agree
Skye replying to a comment from Cease and desist / August 27, 2014 at 11:06 am
I'd imagine there's laws in place for how much of a company's logo and likeness you can use before that company can sue. If the city followed those guidelines, then they're in the clear - though I'm sure the companies you mentioned probably aren't too happy.
mike in parkdale / August 27, 2014 at 11:14 am
I bet that every single one of the wrappers used in the campaign has that little "please don't litter" icon on their packaging. And what company would dare sue ove an anti-littering campaign? Imagine the blowback on that one.
Derek replying to a comment from Oceane / August 27, 2014 at 11:26 am
Oceane is right, any garbage can I go up to either has a step that's broken, or has flaps that look like something out of a horror movie.

if it's a weekend or a busy area, I've seen garbage cans overflowing with garbage. Some areas of the city don't have a garbage can for miles, I think I've held on to my empty can of pop for a good 15 minutes until I found a garbage can walking downtown, most people won't do that so they have both hands free to take a selfie etc.
John replying to a comment from Vaclav / August 27, 2014 at 11:38 am
Typical Torontonian. Littering is NOT fun in the rest of Canada!
Christina replying to a comment from Derek / August 27, 2014 at 11:48 am
Congratulations, you have just described one of the primary reasons I loathe humanity.

dihedron replying to a comment from Cease and desist / August 27, 2014 at 11:51 am
the ad agency's legal team would have obtained permission from the various companies for this product placement.
Parker / August 27, 2014 at 12:23 pm
Great campaign, Toronto needs the reminder. Also, better street bins svp.
Peter / August 27, 2014 at 12:34 pm
I think "lowlife" for littering is going a little too far.
Sidewood / August 27, 2014 at 12:40 pm
Ads are fine, but clearly the city needs to do something about those Astral Media garbage cans, they're garbage, cheap, flimsy and poorly thought out. Another frustrating example of our city handing over its most valuable resource to corporations for for little to nothing in return.
Ray / August 27, 2014 at 12:42 pm
Shaming will prove to be an ineffective tactic on people who think it's okay to litter. They will wither ignore it or think of it as a badge of honour. For example, psychological studies have shown that those cigarette warnings result in no change in behaviour.

I see people indiscriminately discarding wrappers or leaving cups on the street daily. I think someone who litters without compunction is not quite right in the head.

What I don't understand is why we don't have bylaw officers enforcing littering fines. That would not only be a deterrent, it could raise money for valuable community programs.
Bandy / August 27, 2014 at 12:44 pm
Badly conceived. If the purpose of the ad is to achieve a certain result, I.E., getting litterers to use trash bins instead of the sidewalk, calling people names is a bad idea. It will only alienate the people you are trying to motivate. Better to use ads that give some sort of positive reinforcement that will work on people who litter. Study the demographics then create a message that works.
Easy Fix replying to a comment from Oceane / August 27, 2014 at 12:49 pm
Jesus...kwitcher bitchin' and call 311 to report the trash bin is full, already.

Look, the City empties these bins on a weekly (or more frequent) basis. But it's also a complaint-driven system (think: sinkholes, broken water mains, broken tree limbs, etc). So if you see a bin is reguarly overflowing, be a menschy-citizen and report it, and add that they need to up the frquency of collection. Or you can sit and suck your thumb and post all your impotent moaning to BlogTO.

As for the ad campaign, it's brilliant. Reminds me of the great work that was happening back in Miller's days for depts like Toronto Water or Parks (conservacy programs) and, more recently, Solid Waste (think: the orange We Want It! Waste Wizard guys).

The City (and City staffers) has great, progressive, world-beating ideas how to run a city, and this ad campaign squarely falls in that territory. Now if the City can simply overcome the Mayor, a handful of backwater Councillors and the taxation-avoiding howlers they take their marching orders from to run the City as it needs to be, not as their ideology dictates, we'd get fully resume being a city that works.
DMC / August 27, 2014 at 01:05 pm
I was on a first date with a girl in High Park by Grenadier Pond. She dropped her cigarette but on the ground, right by the shoreline. I asked her to pick it up and dispose of it properly. She was embarrassed and proceeded to spend the next 5 minutes telling me how she's actually an environmentalist.
Riiiiiiiiiiight. Thxbai.
Mark / August 27, 2014 at 01:08 pm
Looking at the previous comments, Torontonians are a bunch of fucking whiners. God damn.
Wasting water / August 27, 2014 at 01:13 pm
Public shaming and bullying has worked well for the ACS Ice bucket challenge. "You've got 24 hours to donate to ACS or do the challenge".
Easy Fix replying to a comment from Jason / August 27, 2014 at 01:38 pm
Agreed, Jason...the Councillors don't want a litter-filled ward either, so lean on them.

And I also agree with the above comments about the flimsy and oft-broken bins. They aren't great and we can blame Astral for that--why they could have had larger holes and more robust footpedals I'll never know.

But again, 311 can see that they are repaired, just let them know and they'll fire off a request to Public Realm.
Tyler / August 27, 2014 at 01:47 pm
A great ad marketing campaign. Maybe the city should use InMotion Advertising to spread the message. At least those guys can pick-up garbage while they advertise. Check them out at
Hank / August 27, 2014 at 03:07 pm
Heart is definitely in the right place, but the bottom line is this very clever advertisement won't do much to affect littering. A person either has a conscious and won't (can't) litter, or they're a bonehead who doesn't give a crap. I try to "shame" anyone I see litter and its obvious by their reactions that it's a hopeless cause.
A significant amount of resources and $ goes into a)managing the project b)paying the design agency and c)plastering the ad all over the city. I personally wonder if it could have been used more wisely, although it wouldn't be as fun I guess.
Todd replying to a comment from DMC / August 27, 2014 at 03:07 pm
I bet you drove to High Park.
zamgrl / August 27, 2014 at 04:07 pm
I've been to Toronto many times for shows, shopping, festivals etc. and always its the same issue...the garbage receptacles just cannot accomodate the amount of waste that is generated on a daily basis. I work for a city parks dep't and we've got those Molok garbage/recycling installed in every park. They're so deep, they only require emptying every week or two depending on useage. Look it
Brittany / August 27, 2014 at 04:18 pm
I like the campaign. I never litter. But the city should be focusing on the broken garbage cans! It is so annoying to have carry my trash with me for 5 blocks because every garbage unit has a broken lever.

Is it defacement of public property to print large stickers that say "BROKEN" and stick them on all of the broken garbage receptacles? I am so tempted. Actually, it might be cheeper (less prints needed) if I print stickers that say "IT WORKS" and post them on functioning trash receptacles. They are far and few between.
hair salons toronto / August 27, 2014 at 04:35 pm
Very nice campaign. I would add though some more trash cans downtown and fix the broken ones.
inkth / August 27, 2014 at 04:48 pm
I watched a guy throw a cigarette wrapper out the window of his car as he left the gas station. Lots of garbage cans around. I told him that he dropped something. People need to be told that this is not acceptable.
nlfm / August 27, 2014 at 05:38 pm
Cigarette butts drive me crazy! This counts as litter!

Why is it that a smoker that would otherwise not litter, and likely looks down on someone that would throw other trash on the ground thinks it is acceptable to throw their chemical laden butts on the ground. They enter into the sewage system and add the chemicals to the water supply that will need to be filtered out.
Eran / August 27, 2014 at 05:53 pm
Ever notice that half of all litter is McDonalds garbage? Need to represent the evil arches a bit better in this campaign. I love the concept. brilliant work.
alex / August 27, 2014 at 06:10 pm
Which ad agency is behind the campaign? Ads don't make themselves and I doubt the city did this up themselves. Great work
AL / August 27, 2014 at 08:05 pm
Ok so our tax dollars paid to have them created whats really key is where were paying to have them placed
Drew / August 27, 2014 at 08:10 pm
Its one thing to have everyone who thinks theyre hip think these ads are really realy cool BUT I wonder how effective they'll really be in reducing litter. Clever cheeky ads only usually resonate with a certain demographic.
AL / August 27, 2014 at 08:15 pm
Just a thought, I wonder how much these ads cost to create and then also place. If we know what we the taxpayer spent on them, we'd know if its money well spent or not. Or if it couldve been spent on litter education elsewhere.
Oswald / August 27, 2014 at 08:39 pm
Are we as a city still spending money and natural resources on print ads like we did back in the 80's? Can wait to see one of the ads become litter and lying on the street or subway platform. Way to go Toronto ad to the problem.
Lisa / August 27, 2014 at 10:47 pm
I live close to a park with an over abundance of garbage and recycle bins. Every morning and especially after weekends there is garbage everywhere. No excuse as these are not street bins, they are the large black bins and blue recycle bins. Evidently it is too hard to walk a few feet to dump garbage. It's a disgrace actually. And don't even get me started on the fact that smokers feel the street and sidewalk are their own personal ashtrays. I don't know how much easier it can be made for people to dispose of their garbage properly. I shudder to see what their homes look like.
Jenny / August 28, 2014 at 09:18 am
It seems that a lot of blame is being placed on the city for not picking up garbage often enough. I think we all need to take more personal responsibility to produce LESS garbage overall. This means getting a reusable water bottle, coffee mug, shopping bag, buying in bulk and reducing the amount of pre-packaged goods we buy. This little effort made by all can go a really long way.
Todd / August 28, 2014 at 10:23 am
The cuts to park services are obvious, both in the lack of actual city workers cleaning and the condition of the litter bins. Go to some of the non-downtown parks if you really want to see litter. There are still bus transfers from the winter on the ground.
Ford's Fault, as per usual / August 28, 2014 at 11:55 am
Ford cut Parks budgets. They don't water or cut the grass like they used to. Thank Rob Ford for the extra garbage.
DROBBOR replying to a comment from Wasting water / August 28, 2014 at 12:18 pm
Jrp replying to a comment from Wasting water / August 28, 2014 at 12:24 pm
At Wasting Water.

Just so you know that ice bucket challenge is for ALS NOT ACS.
Maybe you should get your facts straight before you make a comment.

"Public shaming and bullying has worked well for the ACS Ice bucket challenge. "You've got 24 hours to donate to ACS or do the challenge".
dihedron replying to a comment from dihedron / August 28, 2014 at 12:51 pm
welp looks like my assumption was wrong. ad agency did NOT get legal permission before launching this campaign, some heads are going to roll:
Mandy Mellon / August 28, 2014 at 02:24 pm
I love these ads...especially the ones with cigarette butts included. It's dumb enough to smoke, but it's weird to also throw butts on the ground!
Dennon replying to a comment from John / August 28, 2014 at 02:26 pm
Are you serious John? Having lived in Vancouver for 5 years, littering recyclable things is literally the "thing to do" - the homeless have created a sort of micro economy based around collecting the city's recycling, and everyone knows it. It's so prevalent visiting comedians know to joke about it! I havn't lived in Montreal, but the time I've spent there hasn't been that awe inspiring either...certainly not any cleaner than Toronto.

As for the self hating thing, Toronto USED to be a little dirtier/smogier/shittier. But it's done a pretty damn good job in the past 10 years, for a city of 5 million people with a completely useless government at least, of turning itself around, and I agree with most posters that the "haha toronto" sucks stuff needs to stop - it's a world class city now, and deserves to be recognized as such.
The Shakes replying to a comment from dihedron / August 28, 2014 at 02:34 pm
Hope Publicis does a new campaign pro bono, for F'ing up and not getting permission first.
Steven / August 28, 2014 at 10:27 pm
I didn't even realize such advertising existed in Toronto. I think it is a great idea to bring this issue to light, however, perhaps the means by which this message reaches people should be expanded? Many people -- including myself -- don't take public transit. Littering is probably my greatest pet peeve; and I've been thinking about the following for a long time: How about having anti-litter ads incorporated into the advertising that plays before movies in every theatre across the city? As I mentioned above, not everyone rides the TTC, but almost everyone goes to the movies; especially young people. If people are inundated constantly with the message that littering is bad, or 'uncool', then perhaps attitudes will begin to shift? The same advertising could be used in television commercials. Most people born in the last 40 years or so are pretty trendy and latch onto popular ideas. Perhaps local celebrities (Drake, for instance) could be utilized in ads to persuade younger people that it is actually a good thing to dispose of one's garbage the proper way. I think a lot of younger people just throw their garbage on the ground because throwing it away in a garbage/recycling receptacle is seen as 'unhip' and conformist; something only nerds do. They don't want to look too proper around their friends. A large segment of society is obsessed with sustainability, climate change, organic food, and that is no accident. These issues and topics are ingrained in the minds of people because they're promoted in the news and media on a regular basis. Littering should be discussed just as often. The more normal it is seen that littering is bad, the sooner we should see less of it. In the past, Toronto was a clean city because everyone was expected to keep it that way.
Steven / August 28, 2014 at 11:05 pm
"It seems that a lot of blame is being placed on the city for not picking up garbage often enough. I think we all need to take more personal responsibility to produce LESS garbage overall. This means getting a reusable water bottle, coffee mug, shopping bag, buying in bulk and reducing the amount of pre-packaged goods we buy. This little effort made by all can go a really long way."

Bingo. The number one piece of garbage I see everywhere are Tim Hortons cups. Would it be feasible to make people purchase their own Tim's mugs and do away with the disposable cups?
Jessica replying to a comment from Oceane / August 29, 2014 at 08:45 am
The ads are genius, but the earlier post is correct. Our current bins just don't work. We'd be better off with simple, open, round bins like in NYC. They have tons of them because they are cheap.
stive / August 29, 2014 at 08:45 am
They'll probably cancel this campaign and spend the money instead on building more condos. Sheesh!!
June Bug / August 29, 2014 at 01:18 pm
Most big Eastern seaboard cities in the US don't bother street recycling at all. They have open garbage containers that everything gets tossed into.
TOLD YOU SO / August 29, 2014 at 01:43 pm
Toronto pulls popular anti-littering ads after companies complain
Miguel replying to a comment from Peter / August 29, 2014 at 07:10 pm
Doesn't go far enough.
Mary / August 30, 2014 at 03:23 pm

Canadian mouth litter is so sad.
Lisa / September 7, 2014 at 05:26 pm
This ad campaign is genius! Unfortunately they are going to take it down because some of the companies have threatened to sue! Just goes to show you that corporations still have so much power!
Davy Gravy / September 7, 2014 at 05:57 pm
How about you dirty assholes just not throw your shit on the ground? Simple.
Davy Gravy replying to a comment from Jrp / September 7, 2014 at 05:59 pm
And we have 1 second to tell ALS to kindly FUCK OFF!
Davy Gravy replying to a comment from Eran / September 7, 2014 at 05:59 pm
Or represent the dirty fucks who threw it there?
Orphan / September 16, 2014 at 10:01 pm
Why not have bins with ads on them. The advertisers can pay towards them.
The assholes that have garbage and don't like the bins can take the garbage with them.
Why are you buying garbage? Wrappers can go inside coffee cups and into the bag and then into the bin in your office bldg or the subway bins.
If you are a part of the city then it is your problem too.
Simple really. The larger pieces of garbage, like rob ford, will need a truck.
Marilyn / October 7, 2014 at 12:43 am
I love this campaign, but I agree that we need more bins and that includes Cigarette butt bins for the smokers. The city needs to enforce more fines on this.
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