In Sweden, crows pick up cigarette butts and contribute to the collection of street waste

A Swedish company has devised a unique method for cleaning the streets and squares of Södertälje (south of Stockholm) of cigarette butts as part of a campaign to reduce garbage collection costs.

In a report published by the Guardian newspaper,The GuardianBritish writer Daniel Bovey says that Corvid Cleaning has launched a program to train wild crows to collect cigarette butts and put them in a special machine in exchange for food as a reward.

“These wild birds participate on a voluntary basis,” says Christian Gunther Hansen, founder of the company.

crows to cut costs

According to the Keep Sweden Tidy Foundation, more than 1 billion cigarette butts are thrown into Sweden’s streets every year, which represents 62% of all garbage.

Södertälje municipality spends 20 million Swedish kronor (£1.6 million) annually on street cleaning.

According to Gunther Hansen, the company’s software could save up to 75% of the costs of picking up cigarette butts from city streets.

The municipality of Södertälje seeks to take into account the safety of birds mainly in view of the type of waste collected (Getty Images)

The municipality of Södertälje launched a first experiment before circulating the project throughout the city, as it seeks to take into account the safety of birds primarily given the type of waste collected.

Research indicates that New Caledonian crows are the smartest in the corvids family, and their intelligence can be compared to a seven-year-old child, which nominated them to do the task.

“They were easy to teach, and they learn quickly from each other,” says Gunter Hansen. “At the same time, the risk of birds accidentally eating this kind of litter is less.”

Project success chances

“Currently the cost of picking up a cigarette butt is estimated to be about 80 euros, up to two kronon, and if crows pick up cigarette butts, it will cost only 20 euros to pick up each butt. The size of the municipality’s savings therefore depends on the number of cigarette butts picked up by crows.”

Thomas Turnström, waste strategist in the municipality of Södertälje, stresses that the chances of success of the pilot project depend on the amount of funding that will be allocated to it.

“It would be interesting to see the chances of success in other environments, especially since it’s possible to teach crows to pick up cigarette butts, but we can’t teach people not to throw them on the ground,” says Turnstrom.

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