Training birds to dispose cigarettes

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Netherlands (Reuters / CBS Newspath) -- A Dutch startup is working to train crows to pick up cigarette butts, according to Popular Mechanics.

A Dutch startup is working to train crows to pick up cigarette butts, according to Popular Mechanics. Crows are highly intelligent and are able to make and use tools. Cigarette butts are the most littered item on the planet. Courtesy: Next Animation Studio / Reuters / CBS Newspath

Crows are highly intelligent and are able to make and use tools. Cigarette butts are the most littered item on the planet with an estimated 4.5 trillion butts thrown away each year, according to Inhabitat.

The startup Crowded Cities plans to use the crows to help rid the streets of cigarette butts by teaching them to swap butts for food.

The CrowBar is a device with a large funnel for cigarette butts and a peanut dispenser.

It works by training crows using a four-step process. The first step presents food next to a cigarette butt, training the birds to expect food from the machine.

Second, the machine only gives out food when the crow arrives at the device, teaching the crow how the machine functions.

Third, the device only presents a cigarette butt with no food. The crow then starts to look for the food and in the process, knocks the butt into the funnel, dispensing the food.

The fourth step involves removing the cigarette butt, but leaving them scattered around the CrowBar. The crow will then start to pick up butts they find and bring them back to the machine.

Crowded Cities is currently in the process of putting together a working prototype, Popular Mechanics reported.

The next step for researchers will be to study how collecting toxic cigarette butts affects the crows.