The Crowbar

Cigarette filters, you find them in the park next to you in the grass, in dirty ditches and under your shoes. What if we could find a way to collect these butts from all corners of our city and precious parks?
With crows, that have become perfectly adapted to city life, we can! By training crows to recognize and pick up cigarette filters we can solve this tenacious problem of city pollution. It is the Crowbar that does the training for us and gives out food as a reward. Want to know more? Please scroll down!

Our story

In the Netherlands every year more than 6 billion cigarette filters are tossed onto the street. It's easy to toss, but it's not easy to pick them up. Since each filter takes 12 years to degrade we realised it's time to take action. Through observation we concluded crows are the smartest around us to reach any spot in the city. What if crows can bring cigarette filters to one of our Crowbars to exchange the filter for food? This is how our adventure started.

98 percent of cigarette filters are made of plastic fibers (cellulose acetate).

Cigarettes are the most littered item on earth. Worldwide about 4.5 trillion cigarettes are littered each year.

The plastic inside cigarette filters can take up to 10 years to decompose

Training the crows


The crows bring a cigarette filter to the Crowbar, where they drop it into the bottom funnel to get it checked.


After the camera has recognised the cigarette filter as a filter, it returns a bit of food to the table in front of the crow.


The crow goes out telling the others, or keeps this secret to himself - we are not sure.


When we started doing research we found out there is a guy in the States that is teaching crows to collect coins. His name is Joshua Klein. His method is of great inspiration which led to our Crowbar training setup.

Joshua Klein his Crow Box Kit

Crows are smart

Please remember to use your Sunday morning to browse through somecrow videos on Youtube. You will be amazed about what crows are able tolearn. We picked one of the many example for you.


We took one year to see how we could proceed with the concept. We talked with experts, companies, and public institutions, but we had to conclude we had too few resources to continue the project. There are still many open questions to be answered, especially how to make a good business case, as well as the health effects on the crows.

With pain in our hearts, it made us decide to end the project. But since we love and embrace the open-source mentality, we made our best efforts to ensure the project could live on in the hands of others. We shared our findings, files, and assets with many people who all went their own way, including the French Organisation, Birds for Change. They are continuing the journey, and we are happy to have been part of their foundation.

All in all, we hope this project helped you realise it's seriously time we fight cigarette filters and other litter on the streets and, above all, pay attention to our surroundings and nature.

The Team

Ruben van der Vleuten

Interaction designer and Founder of FROLIC studio and Rainspotter. I am passionate about connecting the physical and digital world.


Bob Spikman

Experiment Designer and concept machine. I like great ideas, see design opportunities and I need nature.



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