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1 Feb, 2022 11:53

Crows trained for street-cleaning operations

A Swedish start-up is teaching the birds to pick up discarded cigarette butts
Crows trained for street-cleaning operations

A start-up in Sweden has begun recruiting crows as part of a pilot project to clean up the streets and squares of Södertälje, a city near the Swedish capital, Stockholm. The birds are being incentivized by food offerings, dispensed from a bespoke machine designed by rookie outfit Corvid Cleaning.  

“They are wild birds taking part on a voluntary basis,” said Christian Günther-Hanssen, founder of Corvid Cleaning. He stated that his methods could save the city at least 75% of the cost involved in cleaning the streets of cigarette butts. 

Research suggests that the New Caledonian crow, the bird being recruited for the street cleaning, is as developed at reasoning as a seven-year-old human.

“They are easier to teach and there is also a higher chance of them learning from each other. At the same time, there’s a lower risk of them mistakenly eating any rubbish,” Günther-Hanssen said.

He claimed that the cost per cigarette butt picked up is 80 öre [Swedish change] or more, and that, if effective, the birds could greatly reduce this cost.

According to the Keep Sweden Tidy Foundation, some one billion cigarette butts are dropped on Sweden’s streets each year. It represents 62% of all litter and Södertälje itself spends 20 million Swedish kronor ($2.16 million) on street-cleaning each year.

If the pilot project goes to plan, the machines could be rolled out across the city.