An Unique Initiative: This Startup Trains Crows To Pick Up Cigarette Butts In Order To Fight Pollution

The Logical Indian Crew

October 30th, 2017

Courtesy: Daily MailNameless.tv

A startup named Crowded Cities based out of Netherlands is attempting to contribute in a unique way to keep the environment clean.

It has adopted a unique methodology to fight pollution – they are training crows to pick up cigarette butts and to dispense them off in a device named ‘Crowbar’, reports the Daily Mail.

The startup is working on training the crows to recognise and pick up cigarette butts that have been littered in the city streets and the parks.

Interaction designer for Crowded Cities, Ruben van der Vleuten and experiment designer, Bob Spikman came across a man named Joshua Klein, who was teaching crows to collect coins. It is from there that they got the inspiration to make the Crowbar.


A Dutch startup is training crows to clean up cigarette butts and it's pretty ingenious.

Posted by Nameless.tv on Sunday, October 22, 2017


The startup has finished working on the device and is ready to embark on its pilot project.


How does the device work?

The crow drops a cigarette butt into the device, the device, in turn, scans it. After it is confirmed that it is indeed a cigarette butt, the device gives the crow a food reward to reinforce the behaviour.

This is done with the hope that the crow will fly away and inform other crows of this mechanism. As a result of which, many more crows will be involved in the system.

About 4.5 trillion cigarette butts are being littered each year, and they form a part of the non-biodegradable waste carried as runoff from streets to drains, to the river, and ultimately to the ocean and beaches.

They are toxic and also harmful to marine animals.


Can one depend on the intelligence of the crows?

A September 2017 study found that  New Caledonian crows and kea parrots can understand how important a device may turn out to be helpful in fetching them a favourable result.

The researchers suggested that birds may learn incidentally through their interactions, and later use the newly acquired understanding to their benefit.

Again, a 2016 research review found that cognition in crows and parrots reaches the same level of excellence as apes, and birds and mammals have developed similar brain organizations that could constitute the neural basis of their cognitive skills.


The Logical Indian appreciates the innovative method that has been developed by Crowded Cities to tackle the ever-increasing problem of pollution. We hope that it turns out to be a success and many more innovators draw inspiration from this.

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