Garbage is a huge issue our planet faces. Even small items, like cigarette butts, can leave a lasting impact on the environment, oceans, and wildlife.

Around the world, cities are working to clean up litter and keep the streets free of garbage, and one city in Sweden has come up with a questionable way to do so by partnering with wild crows.

According to the Swedish outlet The Local, Södertälje, near Stockholm, is using crows to pick up discarded cigarette butts from the streets. While it may sound like animal labor, they claim the crows are voluntary participants.

Each time they deposit a cigarette butt into a specifically designed machine, the crow is rewarded with a little treat. It encourages the crows to pick up the butts, without forcing them to do anything.

According to the Keep Sweden Tidy Foundation, more than 1 billion cigarette butts are left on Sweden’s streets each year (an estimated 62% of all litter). The city of Södertälje alone spends around £1.6 million on street cleaning.

The company that created the machines, Corvid Cleaning, is hoping to use the idea to cut costs throughout the city. According to The Local, the company’s founder, Christian Günther-Hanssen, said:

“The estimation for the cost of picking up cigarette butts today is around 80 öre or more per cigarette butt, some say 2 kronor. If the crows pick up cigarette butts, this would maybe be 20 öre per cigarette butt. The saving for the municipality depends on how many cigarette butts the crows pick up.

By saving money, the city could hypothetically allocate funds towards other projects and, hopefully, create an even cleaner, healthier environment.

Despite the positive intention behind the idea, many people have voiced their concerns regarding the animal welfare aspect of using crows to clean garbage, especially cigarette butts. According to Vet Street, “birds are extremely sensitive to cigarette and cigar smoke.” Encouraging wild animals to interact with toxic substances like that could be detrimental to their health.

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