Tatsat Chronicle Magazine

Swedish Start-up Training Crows To Pick Up Cigarettes Butts

Cigarette butts represent 62% of all garbage littered on the streets of Sweden every year and collecting them implies an expense of 20 million Swedish crowns (1.92 million euros).
February 4, 2022
crows trained to pick up cigarettes butt
Representational image. Photo credit: Pixabay

A Swedish cleaning company has been training wild crows to collect cigarette butts and small debris from the streets of the city of Södertälje.

The birds will have to follow a step-by-step learning process to collect the garbage and place it in a special machine that will give them food for their work. “They are easier to teach and there is also a greater chance that they will learn from each other,” Christian Günther-Hanssen, founder of Corvid Cleaning, the company behind the method, shared with local media.

According to the Keep Sweden Tidy Foundation, 1 billion cigarette butts are littered on the streets of Sweden every year. More or less, there are about 96 butts per inhabitant. These wastes represent 62% of all garbage and collecting them implies an expense of 20 million Swedish crowns (1.92 million euros).

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At the moment, a possible pilot test is being investigated in the aforementioned municipality and Günther-Hanssen believes that the plan could save the authorities at least 75% of the costs related to the collection of cigarette butts and small waste.

The crows that will be used will be New Caledonian (Corvus Moneduloides). These ravens have been the subject of study on several occasions due to their “intelligence” and ability to make tools with sticks and other objects. In fact, they are capable of making hooks to capture prey and have even been seen leaving nuts on city roads so that cars break them as they pass and, in this way, they get the fruit.

In addition to this apparent ability of crows to make and collect things, the founder of the company claims that they are “easier to teach” and that there is also a “greater chance that they will learn from each other”.

Tomas Thernström, waste strategist for the municipality of Södertälje, observed that it is possible to “instruct crows to pick up cigarette butts”, but at the same time you cannot “teach people not to throw them on the ground“.

If the project proves effective, they hope to be able to implement it in the rest of the country. It is not the first time that an idea like this has been launched. In 2018, a similar test was carried out at a French amusement park with six ravens trained to pick up cigarette butts and litter.