🚮 Crows to clean up Swedish city – and they'll do it for peanuts

🚮 Crows to clean up Swedish city – and they'll do it for peanuts

Beyond their adverse effect on people's health, cigarettes also constitute the majority of litter in public spaces. A startup and the Swedish city of Södertälje are teaming up for an unusual pilot project.

Jakob Holgersson
Jakob Holgersson

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In 2020 a man called Hans Forsberg shared a video of his clever invention that dispenses peanuts when bottle caps are inserted. He then "trained" local birds to operate the device, and before long, a wealth of avians were routinely cleaning the surrounding area.

It seems that the idea has inspired others as the Swedish city of Södertälje has teamed up with a startup called Corvid Cleaning to perform a pilot project. However, the birds in this project will pick up cigarette butts instead of bottle caps.

“The estimation for the cost of picking up cigarette butts today is around 80 öre (equivalent to cent) or more per cigarette butt; some say two kronor. If the crows pick up cigarette butts, this would maybe be 20 öre per cigarette butt. The saving for the municipality depends on how many cigarette butts the crows pick up.”, says Tomas Thernström, a waste strategist at Södertälje municipality, in a statement to The Guardian
A similar system created by Hans Forsberg in 2020

According to The Keep Sweden Tidy Foundation, cigarette butts are the worst type of litter in the country. A billion butts are disposed of in cities, parks, and beaches every year. Butts make out 62 percent of all waste in Sweden consists of butts and are mainly composed of filters made out of plastic and saturated with hazardous materials, including cadmium. Despite all this, butts are exempt from the country's littering laws.

Crows and other birds have displayed advanced problem-solving skills in experiments and social interactions; they share knowledge. The company will "recruit" local birds voluntarily and hope that the "word will spread." An important factor during the pilot is, of course, their health and well-being. If the pilot goes well, the idea is to roll out this solution across the city.

According to Swedish public service media SVT, the project will be presented in greater detail during Science Week.

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A new app called Litterlotto is gamifying litter picking and “trades trash for cash.” This has turned out to be a success, and recently the first winner was announced.