Innovation That Matters

Clean-up initiative | Photo source Pixabay

Crows trained to clean cigarette butts from city streets


Startup is currently testing a trash can that rewards crows with food when they drop in a cigarette butt.

With more than four trillion cigarette butts discarded each year, cities in every country struggle to deal with the problem. Some scientists think that the intelligence of crows is near to that of monkeys and apes, and now, Netherlands-based Crowded Cities is training crows to pick up the trash.

Crowded Cities’ Crowbar is a small trash can that rewards the birds with food every time they drop in a littered cigarette butt. The tiny size of cigarette butts make them difficult for human cleaning teams to successfully tackle, and the plastics inside the filters may take up to ten years to decompose. With crows able to solve puzzles and build tools, the team behind the Crowbar is hoping that one of the most ubiquitous types of litter may finally have met its match. The prototype is currently being assembled after which the training of the birds will begin.

Finding new ways to clean increasingly crowded urban areas has resulted in a variety of innovations, including trained vultures helping authorities in Peru find illegal garbage dumps and a crowdsourced app that helps keep Parisian sidewalks free from dog poo. How could some of these ideas be scaled or adapted to help with more urgent city health problems, such as lack of plumbing or running water?




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