Litter-Picking Crows To Help Rid Sweden's Streets Of Cigarette Butts


Maddy Chapman

Junior Copy Editor and Staff Writer

clockFeb 1 2022, 17:18 UTC

Save the crows a job, put it in the bin. Image credit: TAWATCHAI PLONTIP/

Crows are once again showing their smarts, this time putting their extremely long skillset to use helping the environment. The wild birds are being trained to pick up cigarette butts as part of a pilot project in Södertälje, near Stockholm, Sweden.

The newest eco-warriors on the block will deposit the discarded butts and other small pieces of litter into a machine, designed by Swedish startup Corvid Cleaning. In return for their efforts, they receive a tasty treat.


“They're wild birds taking part on a voluntary basis,” Christian Günther-Hanssen, the founder of Corvid Cleaning, told Swedish newswire TT.

While doing their bit for the planet – and a snack – the birds are also saving the city a pretty penny.

The initiative could cut the current costs of picking up cigarette butts by at least 75 percent, Günther-Hanssen estimates.


“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 kronor [$0.22]. If the crows pick up cigarette butts, this would maybe be 20 öre [$0.022] per cigarette butt,” Günther-Hanssen told TT.

A shocking 1 billion cigarette butts are strewn on Sweden’s streets each year – accounting for 62 percent of all litter, according to the Keep Sweden Tidy Foundation. In Södertälje, 20 million kronor ($2.1 million) is spent on street cleaning each year.

Enter the army, or murder, of litter-picking crows, cherry picked for the task because of their notorious intellect.


“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,” Günther-Hanssen said. 

Crows can build and use tools, bend wire, utilize sticks, and even understand zero as a quantity. Not bad for a bird without a caw-llege degree (sorry).

If their clean-up efforts in Södertälje are successful, it’s hoped the project could spread to the rest of the city, and perhaps the country.

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