Sweden’s ‘scavengers of nature’ are on the move to clean up the environment one cigarette butt at a time. In a first of its kind concept, a Swedish firm, Corvid Cleaning, in the city of Södertälje, is training and deploying crows to pick up discarded butts from the streets. The waste will be deposited in the company’s specially-built machine. They came up with the idea as crows have the inherent habit of picking random things up. In exchange, the birds are provided with food like peanuts.
“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,” the company’s founder, Christian Günther-Hanssen said. The financial factor has also been taken into account while coming up with this method. The cost of picking up stray butts would go down from 80 øre (8.5 USD) to 20 øre (2.19 USD) per butt, if the company is able to successfully execute this. Christian is confident that his system could save 75 percent of cleaning costs, if all goes according to the plan. It is still in the trial stage, but intricate planning is being ensured to make it effective.
The species of crows undergoing training is called New Caledonian, particularly because they are known to be as smart as a seven-year-old child. According to company reports, they’re the smartest birds for this job. However, necessary health tests are in process to ensure the crows’ health is not harmed by the butts.
According to the Keep Sweden Tidy Foundation, more than 1 billion butts are discarded on Sweden streets every year, making up for 62 percent of the country’s waste. Although the quantity of butts picked up by crows would be a significant factor in determining the success of this pilot project.
“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,” said Tomas Thernström, a waste strategist at Södertälje municipality.
After the news of the project spread, netizens reacted in varied ways. Some supported the uniqueness of the idea, while others opined it is inhuman to burden birds with waste created by humans. Several even pointed out the futility of the project in the long run. The actual data and results would only be available once the company greenlights the operation to run across the city.