Cannes Lions

DB Export Beer Bottle Sand

COLENSO BBDO, Auckland / HEINEKEN / 2018

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Case Film






The world is running out of sand. Sand is used in everything from construction to pharmaceuticals, and as result two thirds of the world’s beaches are retreating. Desert sand is too fine to be used in construction, sending the demand for beach sand soaring. A billion-dollar black market has resulted in the illegal extraction of sand from Sierra Leone to Singapore. Sand is the second most exploited natural resource on the planet and takes hundreds of thousands of years to regenerate.

At the same time, global mainstream beer consumption is in decline. So we built machines that turn empty beer bottles into a sand substitute. To save their beaches, we asked New Zealanders to empty a bottle of DB Export. Made from desert sand, each bottle makes 200 grams of sand substitute. To make a difference we needed New Zealanders to empty as many DB Export bottles as possible!


Our integrated campaign encouraged New Zealanders to take action. TV, outdoor, digital – even the labels on the bottles – everything directed drinkers to take one simple action: empty a bottle of DB Export. The more empty bottles we had, the more sand substitute we could create.

The machines toured bars and events all over the country. Each machine turns a bottle of DB Export into sand in just 5 seconds. As the bottle is pulverised a vacuum system removes contaminants like plastic labels, leaving behind 200 grams of sand substitute.

We then partnered with New Zealand’s largest recycling company to create commercial quantities of our sand by combining our empty bottles with non-recyclable glass destined for landfill. For every 12 pack of beer sold in New Zealand, 3 bottles end up in landfill. DB Export Beer Bottle Sand kept both sand on the beaches, and glass out of landfill.


Very few New Zealanders were aware of the global sand shortage. The issue lacked the profile of other causes, and therefore lacked the energy, will and funding to address it. DB Export Beer Bottle Sand made the topic a national talking point, dedicating $3 million dollars of media spend and achieving 48 million impressions in a country of just 5 million. This awareness was further helped with on-bottle messaging, putting the sand shortage issue into the hands of consumers 32 million times. This lift in awareness was not just restricted to our consumers, it was also seen in the commercial sector, too. Many industries dependent on beach-derived sand have begun piloting and converting to a glass sand alternative. Prior to the campaign, Visy (our recycling partner) was forced to dump excess crushed glass into landfill.

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