Crows Trade Butts—the Cigarette Kind—for Food

Sweden testing litter cleanup program
By Stephanie Mojica,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 5, 2022 10:30 AM CST
Swedish Crows Will Work for Food
Crows in Sweden will get a little food for every cigarette butt they place in a special machine, the Guardian reports.   (Getty Images)

Some crows in Sweden will literally work for food now. A company based in suburban Stockholm is testing a program that sees trained crows pick up cigarette butts in the city in exchange for food, the Guardian reports. For each butt a crow places into a special machine, the bird will receive a little food. However, the program won't fully launch in the suburb of Södertälje until Corvid Cleaning—the company behind the pilot project—is certain the waste won't harm the birds and financing is secured. The crows being used are New Caledonian crows, which company founder Christian Günther-Hanssen told Swedish media are among the smartest birds—reportedly possessing the same reasoning skills as 7-year-old humans.

And there's no forced participation, reports the Local Sweden. "They're wild birds taking part on a voluntary basis," says Günther-Hanssen. He believes the initiative could slash the more than $2 million the suburb spends on street cleaning by as much as 75%, per the Hill. More than 60% of the litter in Sweden is from cigarette butts. The ultimate goal would be to expand the butts-for-food program throughout the Nordic nation, which sees 1 billion butts discarded on its streets. Similar efforts were tested in France in 2018, though it is unclear whether crows are still used to pick up waste in that country. (More sustainability stories.)

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