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Sweden is now using crows to pick up litter

Forget everything you thought you knew about litter, waste management, and birds. Sweden is shaking things up by using crows to clean up discarded cigarette ends.

Have you ever looked at a murder of crows and thought – they look like a suitable clean-up crew? Wondered if your local birds could be upstanding citizens keeping the pavements cigarette free?

You can rest easy knowing those fowl-based musings are finally being answered over in Sweden. Crows are now being recruited to collect cigarette butts in Södertälje, a city near Stockholm, in an effort to cut down costs on litter collection and waste management.

The initiative was launched by a startup based in Södertälje called Corvid Cleaning. Employee Christian Günther-Hanssen says that the crows are involved ‘on a voluntary basis’, though how exactly they sign consent forms remains to be seen.

Crows receive food as payment and must deposit butts in a specially-made machine. The New Caledonian crow is the most suited for the role, as scientists estimate they have the same reasoning capabilities as a seven-year-old human.

If you don’t believe that this is real or works, check out a clip below that shows one bird being trained on the job.

Corvid Cleaning estimates that the initiative will cut down litter picking costs by up to 75%, but there is hope that these quirky projects may be implemented on a wider scale if proven successful.

Tomas Thernström, a waste strategist at Södertälje municipality, says that it’ll be interesting to see whether this could be used in other environments. He also notes that ‘we can teach crows to pick up cigarette butts but we can’t teach people not to throw them on the ground’. A fair point.

Perhaps we’ll one day see cleaning crows in London, ticket-officer tigers in New York, or perhaps even bouncer bears at the front doors of our clubs. I’m imagining a real world Zootopia situation.

Until then, try not to litter or throw your rubbish on the ground. We shouldn’t really need to employ literal birds out of the sky to keep our streets clean, you know?


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