Swedish City Wants to Use Crows to Clean Trash from the Streets

Photo by keerthivasan swaminathan on Unsplash

Sweden could become the first country in the world to have a cleaning crew entirely made out of crows. At least that’s the idea behind a Corvid Cleaning project, which aims to train crows to pick up trash from the streets in exchange for food.

The project is currently in its early phases and is being tested in the city of Södertälje. The crows are being taught to pick up cigarettes butts and bring them to a designated container. Each time they do that, they get rewarded with peanuts.  

Christian Günther-Hanssen, the man behind Corvid Cleaning, envisions that this project could cut the costs of street cleaning for the city and help them use funds in other areas of need. Sweden has a significant issue with cigarette butts, which make up an estimated 60% of all the litter in the country.

“The estimation for the cost of picking up cigarette butts today is around 80 öre ($0.09) or more per cigarette butt, some say 2 Krona ($0.22),” Günther-Hanssen explains. “If the crows pick up cigarette butts, this would maybe be 20 öre ($0.023) per cigarette butt. The saving for the municipality depends on how many cigarette butts the crows pick up.”

The idea might seem far-fetched to some, but a video of crows in action shared by Günther-Hanssen shows otherwise. 

However, before the project takes off, several more steps need to be covered. One of them is doing a study related to concerns about the negative impact of cigarette butts on crows.

“An important part of the upcoming pilot test is to monitor the levels of compounds in the birds, in order to remove the unknowns,” Günther-Hanssen adds. “Should any reach dangerous levels the project will be modified to exclude any items containing those compounds.”