If you thought plastic was the biggest source of waste in the world, it’s not like that. A quick glance at the ground of any street in your town will be enough to guess which one is really the main one. ranking: the cigarette butts, with up to 4.5 trillion (we’re talking about millions of trillions) thrown away each year. And although the solution resists, a Dutch team is looking for it no more and no less than in crows which, with training and the help of technology, could clean any corner of the world of cigarette butts.

At least that’s what they’ve been trying ever since Crowded cities, a Dutch initiative created in mid-2017 which, from the only pun of its name (Raven means crow, and crowded crowded) indicates objectives: that this species of bird which surprises the scientific community for its intelligence and its capacities such as foresight, be in charge of collecting butts “From any corner of a city and its beautiful parks.”


To advance this goal, Designers Ruben van der Vleuten and Bob Spikman shape technology that will help crows in this difficult task: the Crowbar. Although many details have not yet been revealed, the footage points to a lamppost-like team, in which crows are believed to lay the remains of cigarettes.

The idea is that when these birds let go of their butts, they are recognized by a camera built into the equipment. Thus, when the system verifies that it is indeed this type of waste, release a small amount of food that will reward the crow for the task.

The next step, proponents of the proposal point out, would be that “The crow said to the others” and others rejoice or, as they admit, “Keep the secret”. “We are not sure”, confirm the behavior of the crows, which will be decisive for the idea to bear fruit.

Therefore, as soon as the technology is ready, a testing phase will begin with these birds, which will be educated and trained to fulfill the role expected of them. “The machine uses a process of four stages, tested so that crows can associate collecting cigarette butts with obtaining food, say the promoters of the idea.

Alarmed by the 6 billion cigarette butts thrown in the streets of Holland each year, the promoters of Crowded Cities They were inspired by Joshua Klein, an American who trains crows to collect coins; idea that takes shape as you go The Raven Box. Based on this, the Dutch team hope their Crowbars will work and can be located anywhere in any city, to help clean up the cityscape of a residue that can take up to 12 years to degrade. .

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