“They are easier to teach and there is also a higher chance of them learning from each other,” Swedish newswire TT, per TheLocal.se. “At the same time, there’s a lower risk of them mistakenly eating any rubbish.”
Before anybody cries cruelty, Günther-Hanssen is quick to point out the birds are not captured or forced to do the humans’ dirty work.
‘”They’re wild birds taking part on a voluntary basis,” he said.
Who’s a clever boy then. Swedish enterprise Corvid Cleaning is testing a reward-based system where crows picking up cigarette butts and drop them into a trash can. Peanuts are then dispensed as a reward. pic.twitter.com/7bvYNO5dpw
Günther-Hanssen is currently testing a pilot project in the city of Södertälje, and hopes the method could be rolled out further afield, even nationally.
More than a billion cigarette butts litter Sweden’s streets every year, making up more than 60 percent of the country’s rubbish problem, according to the Keep Sweden Tidy Foundation. Günther-Hanssen believes the crows could save 75 percent of cleanup costs, depending on their haul.
He estimates the cost of a human picking up a cigarette butt at 80 öre ($0.09) each; a crow will do it for a quarter of the price (in snacks, that is).
Tomas Thernström, waste strategist at Södertälje municipality, said one of the most interesting aspects of the project was that we can teach crows to pick up cigarettes butts, but can’t teach humans not to toss them in the first place.