Turning toxic particles into pencils

A new initiative from health brand Otrivin and ad agency Wunderman Thompson Singapore uses filters to capture pollution by-products and turn them into pencils for Indian schoolchildren

According to research by the World Health Organisation, a shocking 98% of Indian schoolchildren breathe toxic air, both outside but also within classrooms. Air pollution impacts neurodevelopment and cognitive ability and can trigger asthma, and childhood cancer.

To raise awareness of this issue, nasal health brand Otrivin, owned by global consumer health company Haleon, has launched a clean air initiative centred on a unusual premise: turning polluted air into pencils that can be used by the children.

The project has launched in Bengaluru, in three low-income schools in the industrial areas of Peenya, Hegganahalli and Mallasandra, which all have particularly poor air quality. In this initial phase of the project, 22 air purifiers, with the ability to wipe out up to 74% airborne pollutants, were installed both inside and outside of school buildings to improve air quality for over 1,500 young students.

Over a two month period, the purifiers cleaned over 2 billion cubic feet of toxic air. The resulting pollution residue was gathered and mixed with graphite to create the core of 10,000 custom-designed pencils.

Certified non-toxic, Otrivin’s Pollution Capture Pencils were distributed to students, and will also act as fundraising tools for the installation of more air purifiers in local schools. Both the filters and the pencil boxes feature bright and cheerful illustrations by artist Gautum Dutta, including details specific to the individual schools involved in the project.

Wunderman Thompson Singapore Otrivin
Wunderman Thompson Singapore Otrivin

While the initiative’s scope is small at this stage, projects such as these, which visualise the enormous problem of air pollution and the devastating impact it can have on children, help raise awareness and offer hope for solutions.

“Air pollution is not going away in a hurry,” says Wunderman Thompson Singapore creative director, Aarti Nichlani. “Meanwhile, it’s the poorest children who bear the greatest burden. An innovation like Pollution Capture Pencils helps make a change at a time when children need it most … today.”

Wunderman Thompson Singapore Otrivin
Wunderman Thompson Singapore Otrivin

Agency: Wunderman Thompson Singapore
Global Chief Creative Officers: Bas Korsten, Daniel Bonner
Chief Creative Officer: Mateusz Mroszczak
Executive Creative Director: Jon Loke
Creative Director: Aarti Nichlani
Associate Creative Director: Tulika Shanker
Art Director: Nuttawee Pisanprechatam
Illustrator: Gautam Dutta
Production House: Tandem Media Pvt Ltd ( India )
Director: Shamik Sen Gupta