It's no secret that crows are clever. Like other members of the corvid family, crows live in communities known as roosts and are known to scavenge their food. Researchers are fascinated by the birds—even discovering that they can understand the concept of zero. A Swedish entrepreneur named Christian Günther-Hanssen, founder of Corvid Cleaning, is harnessing this avian brilliance to save his city money. He has invented a method to train crows to pick up cigarette butts and other litter.
Litter removal is a hefty municipal expense. The Swedish city of Södertälje spends 20 million Swedish kronor (about $2.2 million ) on street cleaning every year. At least 62% of this debris is cigarette butts. Günther-Hanssen has created a machine which rewards the local wild New Caledonian crows for each butt they remove from the streets and place in the special trash can. These clever birds are about as “smart” as a 7-year-old human. They can be trained by the reward system and even learn the cleaning behavior from one another.
These feathery volunteers could potentially save about 75% of their costs related to cigarette waste. A trial is currently underway to assess the efficacy of Corvid Cleaning's ingenious new idea. It is important to assess whether the crows accidentally (or on-purpose) eat the cigarette butts, as this would negatively impact their health. Financing is also up in the air. However, the corvid cleaning crew is a new way to approach the old problem of city litter.
Tomas Thernström, a waste strategist at Södertälje municipality, says, “It would be interesting to see if this could work in other environments as well. Also from the perspective that we can teach crows to pick up cigarette butts but we can’t teach people not to throw them on the ground. That’s an interesting thought.” In the meantime, we can all be cool like crows and pick up litter wherever we see it.
A Swedish company is using clever crows to pick up litter and cigarette butts from city streets.
h/t: [The Guardian]