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25 Cleanest Cities in the U.S.

In this piece, we will take a look at the 25 cleanest cities in the U.S. For more cities, head on over to 5 Cleanest Cities in the U.S.

The U.S. is one of the world's largest polluters in terms of carbon emissions. Looking at global carbon dioxide emissions by country, data from the European Union shows that America emitted 4.7 billion tons of carbon dioxide in 2021, coming in second only to China, whose emissions stood at a whopping 12.5 billion tons. At the same time, America also ranks second when it comes to plastic waste generated. Data from 2010, the latest year for which such statistics are available, shows that the U.S.'s plastic waste output stood at 37.8 million tonnes, coming second once again to China whose output stood at 59 million tonnes.

However, America isn't a poor performer in all areas. For instance, a study of air pollution measured through particulate concentrations in the air saw America rank among the top thirty countries in the world with a PM2.5 concentration of 8.9 μg/m³. These results are due to stringent regulations as well as less reliance on polluting means of generating electricity such as coal.

Additionally, the growth of technology in every facet of American society has also made its way into trash collection. One controversial city, which has also been in the news these days due to high crime rates, is San Francisco. San Francisco is one of the largest cities in America in terms of its population which sits close to a million people. It also has some of the highest income in America, with the latest estimates from the Federal Reserve showing that per capita income stood at more than $160,000 in 2021. At the same time, San Francisco also ranks third in the list of cities with the highest trash, as data from the Census Bureau's American Housing Survey (AHS) shows that out of the 1.7 million households polled, nearly 20% reported seeing litter or trash within half a block of their home.

The City is making efforts to change these statistics. San Francisco has some of the highest rates of recycling in the country, with data from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) showing that San Francisco recycles up to 80% of its waste - the highest in America and tying with Los Angeles which also recycles 80%. A large portion of San Francisco's success is attributable to its partnership with the waste management firm Recology Inc. The firm achieves high recycling rates by communicating effective product and packaging designs to designers that can easily be recycled. Recology's Recycle Center also uses automated sorting, gravity, and rotating disks to separate differently sized lighter materials. The machines also separate paper from plastics by using light screens, while glass, metal, and aluminum are separated through shredding and compressed air, while magnets pick out metal cans.

Yet, San Francisco is not the only city using technology to fight trash. Another program that has received significant attention is the One Less Truck project which aims to shift garbage collection from residents to alternate weeks with garbage collected less frequently. The results of this pilot project showed that the city could save up to $6 million in payments to collection companies annually and reduce household waste collection bills by 11%.

Delving deeper into how technology is aiding cleaner American cities, Portland, Oregon, has an interesting strategy to improve recycling. The city's Curbside Rewards program sees the city partner up with Recycling Perks to allow users to sign up to a program that provides them with a recycling cart to collect trash. This cart is scanned by waste collection trucks through radiofrequency identification devices (RFID), and the owner of the cart is awarded points to redeem at retailers and restaurants as an incentive to recycle more.

At the same time, just as robots are busy disrupting the industrial world, they are also stealthily making their way into waste collection and disposal. Several U.S. cities are also testing robots for this purpose. One example comes, again, from San Francisco, which started installing artificial intelligence sensors into trash cans to monitor up to sixteen points inside a bin and determine when it is overflowing to better inform collection drivers for route optimization. These sensors are made by Nordsense, who claims that these enabled San Francisco to reduce waste overflow by 80%, street cleaning requests by 66%, and illegal dumping by 64%. The success of the pilot project led the two to join forces and apply the sensors to 1,000 bins.

Finally, while startups are often all the buzz when it comes to technology, established players in the trash collection industry are also embracing robotics. One such firm is Casella Waste Systems, Inc. (NASDAQ:CWST), which has retrofitted its Boston facility with robots. The benefits from this were shared by management during the firm's first quarter of 2023 earnings conference, where they outlined:

So we’re investing both capital dollars and some lower operating results here for about a quarter and a half as we complete that retrofit. And once we come back online, we expect about $3 million to $3.5 million of better performance at the Boston MRF due to one higher throughput and two better operating efficiencies. We’re using a lot of technology at robotics and we expect to do more work with about 35% to 40% less people. So it’s a great investment for the long term in a market that really desires sustainability and has a lot of growth opportunity in a greater Boston area.

With these details in mind, let's take a look at some of the cleanest cities in America.

Cleanest Cities in the U.S.
Cleanest Cities in the U.S.

Photo by Gene Gallin on Unsplash

Our Methodology

To compile our list of America's cleanest cities, we used data from the Census Bureau's American Housing Survey (AHS) to calculate the percentage of households with trash or junk half a block from their residents. Based on this data, we picked top 25 American cities with the highest percentages of households reporting no trash.

Cleanest Cities in the U.S.

25. Houston, Texas

Percentage of Households Reporting No Trash: 89%

Houston is one of the most populous cities in America and a hub for the energy industry with several large firms headquartered there.

24. San Antonio, Texas

Percentage of Households Reporting No Trash: 89%

San Antonio is the oldest city in Texas and has a vibrant presence of technology and other industries.

23. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Percentage of Households Reporting No Trash:  89%

Pittsburgh is one of the oldest cities in the U.S., as it was set up during the late 18th century. It headquarters several Fortune 500 companies.

22. Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

Percentage of Households Reporting No Trash: 90%

Oklahoma City is the most populous city in Oklahoma and houses several large firms such as Coca-Cola.

21. Phoenix, Arizona

Percentage of Households Reporting No Trash: 90%

Phoenix is the fifth largest city in America in terms of population. One of its biggest employers is the chipmaking giant Intel Corporation.

20.  Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater

Percentage of Households Reporting No Trash: 90%

The Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater statistical area, also called the Tampa Bay area, houses more than three million people with the largest county being Hillsborough County.

19. Dallas, Texas

Percentage of Households Reporting No Trash: 91%

Dallas has a population of 1.3 million people. It is best known for being the headquarters city of AT&T and Southwest Airlines.

18. Minneapolis–Saint Paul

Percentage of Households Reporting No Trash: 91%

The Minneapolis–Saint Paul statistical area is one of the most prosperous regions in the state of Minnesota.

17. Richmond, Virginia

Percentage of Households Reporting No Trash: 91%

Richmond is one of the smaller cities on our list with a population of little more than two hundred thousand people. It houses several Fortune 500 firms.

16. Detroit, Michigan

Percentage of Households Reporting No Trash: 91%

Detroit is another old American city that was set up at the turn of the 18th century in 1701.

15. Washington, D.C.

Percentage of Households Reporting No Trash: 91%

Washington, D.C. is the capital of America and one of the most expensive cities to live in the country.

14. Kansas City, Kansas

Percentage of Households Reporting No Trash: 91%

The Kansas City metropolitan area houses more than two million people. Its largest city is Kansas City, with a strong presence of the U.S. government.

13. Boston, Massachusetts

Percentage of Households Reporting No Trash: 91%

Boston is one of the oldest cities in the U.S. as it was first settled in 1625. It is part of the Boston-Cambridge-Newton, MA-NH in the housing survey.

12. Atlanta, Georgia

Percentage of Households Reporting No Trash: 91%

Atlanta has one of the highest numbers of Fortune 500 companies for an American city. Some notable firms based in the city are Coca-Cola, Home Depot, and Delta Airlines.

11. Cleveland, Ohio

Percentage of Households Reporting No Trash: 91%

Cleveland is the largest city in the Cleveland Metropolitan area.

10. Louisville, Kentucky

Percentage of Households Reporting No Trash: 92%

Louisville is the largest city in Kentucky and a shipping and transportation hub in its state.

9. Northern New Jersey

Percentage of Households Reporting No Trash: 92%

Northern New Jersey is made of six counties with Newark as its largest city.

8. Cincinnati, Ohio

Percentage of Households Reporting No Trash: 92%

Cincinnati is an economic hub in its state, and is best known to house Kroger and Procter & Gamble.

7. Austin, Texas

Percentage of Households Reporting No Trash: 92%

Austin sits at the heart of the Austin-Round Rock metropolitan area. It is a hub for technology in the U.S. and houses important chip, personal computing, and consumer technology firms.

6. Nashville, Tennessee

Percentage of Households Reporting No Trash: 94%

Nashville is the largest city in Tennessee and an important financial city.

 

Click to continue reading and see 5 Cleanest Cities in the U.S.

 

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Disclosure: None. 25 Cleanest Cities in the U.S. is originally published on Insider Monkey.

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