For all our supposed sophistication, we humans can be a rather snobbish and inconsiderate lot. Take the rather annoying little habit that many smokers have of flicking their cigarette butts all over the place—on the street, at the park or playground, in the bumper cars at a carnival ride. The 11% of the Swedish population who smoke manage to leave more than a billion cigarette butts littered around Swedish streets each year. That’s a lot of toxic trash, which can leach harmful chemicals into waterways or cause problems with wildlife. Plus, it’s just plain trashy.
So the Swedish town of Sodertalje has come up with a creative solution: enlist crows to clean up the messes people make. A company called Corvid Cleaning trains wild crows to fly around collecting discarded cigarette butts. The birds then deposit them into a machine that rewards them each time with a morsel of food. The hope is that this can clean up city streets while cutting the cost of street cleaning.
“We can teach crows to pick up cigarette butts, but we can’t teach people not to throw them on the ground,” says Tomas Thernstrom, a waste strategist with the city. “That’s an interesting thought.” And a rather depressing one, too.
1. The Week, Feb. 11, 2022, p.8