Sustainability Infrastructure

A Swedish company plans on using crows to pick up cigarette butts

This June 27, 2012, photo shows a crow dive-bombing a bicyclist as he crosses the Morrison Bridge in Portland, Ore. For the past two months people crossing the west end of the Morrison Street Bridge have been dodging a crow that’s been protecting a nest. From morning to night the bird swoops down from the… (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

Story at a glance

  • A Swedish city has come up with a creative new way to address its cigarette butt problem.
  • The company, called Corvid Cleaning, is located in Södertälje just south of Stockholm.
  • Cigarette butts are the most common form of plastic pollution.

A Swedish company plans on using crows to pick up cigarette butts from city streets.  

The birds will receive a small amount of food for every cigarette butt they pick up and drop into a bespoke machine designed by the startup called Corvid Cleaning located in Södertälje, just southwest of Stockholm, according to The Guardian.  

“They are wild birds taking part on a voluntary basis,” Christian Günther-Hanssen, the founder of Corvid Cleaning, told The Guardian. Günther-Hanssen believes the method will cut down the cost of cigarette butt cleanup in the city by 75 percent.  


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Cigarette butts are the most abundant form of plastic pollution in the world, with about 4.5 trillion individual butts being tossed every year. And while cigarette filters can take up to 10 years to completely decompose, the chemicals they release during the process, including arsenic, lead and nicotine, can linger in the environment for longer. 

In Sweden, more than 1 billion cigarette butts are tossed on the streets each year and make up 62 percent of the country’s litter, according to the Keep Sweden Tidy Foundation. The city of Södertälje alone spends 20 million Swedish kronor, or more than $2 million USD, on street cleaning.  

In 2018, half a dozen crows were trained to pick up cigarette butts at a French theme park and dump them in a box as part of a larger effort to encourage human visitors to throw their used butts in the garbage, according to The New York Times.

The effort though is just one example of how the birds are intelligent enough to take on the task of street cleanup.   


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