2024’s Dirtiest Cities in America


ags of garbage litter the street in an urban area

Metropolis dwelling comes with extra leisure, extra job alternatives, and likewise extra air pollution, trash, and pests.

Which U.S. cities are the filthiest? To search out out, LawnStarter ranked 2024’s Dirtiest Cities in America.

This yr, we expanded the scope of our examine to embody over 300 of the largest U.S. cities primarily based on 4 classes. Extra particularly, we thought-about air air pollution, water high quality, waste administration, and ranges of native dissatisfaction, amongst 21 complete metrics.

See the place your metropolis landed in our rating beneath. To learn the way we ranked the cities, see our methodology.


Metropolis Rankings

See how your metropolis and others fared in our rating:

Prime 5 Shut Up

Try the slideshow beneath for a more in-depth have a look at every of our prime 5 dirtiest cities.

1st = Dirtiest

An aerial view of San Bernardino, California
No. 1: San Bernardino, California | Total Rating: 54.9

Median Air High quality Index: 80 | Rank: 1 (tie)
Share of Overcrowded Houses: 8.8% | Rank: 24
Variety of Junk Yards: 12 | Rank: 37
Share of Residents Who Discover Metropolis Soiled and Untidy: 93.8% | Rank: 3
Share of Residents Dissatisfied with Air pollution: 75% | Rank: 1

Picture Credit score: House10902 / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 1.0

A view of the Detroit skyline at night
No. 2: Detroit | Total Rating: 52.89

Median Air High quality Index: 58 | Rank: 25
Share of People who smoke: 29.1% | Rank: 2
Share of Houses With out Full Kitchen Amenities: 15.6% | Rank: 1
Share of Houses With out Full Plumbing Amenities: 12.7% | Rank: 2
Share of Residents Who Discover Metropolis Soiled and Untidy: 79.3% | Rank: 5

Picture Credit score: espiegle / Adobe Inventory / License

A view of downtown Reading, Pennsylvania
No. 3: Studying, Pennsylvania | Total Rating: 51.85

Greenhouse Fuel Emissions per Capita: 18.5 metric tons | Rank: 22
RSEI Rating: 128.48 | Rank: 1
Share of People who smoke: 26.5% | Rank: 5
Share of Residents Who Discover Metropolis Soiled and Untidy: 100% | Rank: 1
Share of Residents Dissatisfied with Air pollution: 33% | Rank: 58

Picture Credit score: Smallbones / Wikimedia Commons / Public Area

Mid-rise buildings make up the skyline of Newark, New Jersey
No. 4: Newark, New Jersey | Total Rating: 50.66

Median Air High quality Index: 51 | Rank: 69
Greenhouse Fuel Emissions per Capita: 8.4 metric tons | Rank: 44
Annual Extra Gas Consumption per Auto Commuter: 23 gallons | Rank: 1
Share of Residents Who Discover Metropolis Soiled and Untidy: 88.9% | Rank: 4
Share of Residents Dissatisfied with Air pollution: 50% | Rank: 12

Picture Credit score: bluebeat76  / Adobe Inventory / License

An view of downtown Ontario, California
No. 5: Ontario, California | Total Rating: 49.02

Median Air High quality Index: 80 | Rank: 1 (tie)
Share of Residents Uncovered to Close to-Roadway Air pollution: 21.6% | Rank: 23
Amount of Waste in Landfills per 100,000 Residents: 7.9 million tons | Rank: 41
Refuse and Recycling Collectors per 100,000 Residents: 26 | Rank: 60
Share of Residents Dissatisfied with Air pollution: 60.7% | Rank: 6

Picture Credit score: U.S. Division of Agriculture / Wikimedia Commons / Public Area

Key Insights

America’s Dirtiest Cities aren’t essentially filled with litterbugs — cities like San Bernardino, California (No. 1), and Detroit (No. 2), primarily cope with polluted air, excessive ranges of greenhouse gasoline emissions, and data of ingesting water violations

10 California cities within the Inland Empire, like San Bernardino, tie with the worst median air high quality. The delivery trade is exploding on this area, with a freight hall boasting over 4,000 warehouses and almost 600,000 diesel-fueled vans driving via the Inland Empire on a every day foundation

The Golden State is a significant proponent of electrical autos and handed a mandate implementing a gradual conversion from diesel to zero-emission massive rigs and industrial vans. California is a frontrunner in implementing inexperienced insurance policies, just like the Inexperienced Garden Care regulation, which bans gross sales of newly manufactured gas-powered garden care tools.

Cities in Iowa and Virginia — like Des Moines (No. 295) and Roanoke (No. 297) — rating among the many least soiled cities in our rating, close to Lynchburg, Virginia, in final place. These cities take pleasure in much less noxious air and near-roadway air pollution, low extra gasoline consumption, and greater resident satisfaction.

Get the dust on extra cities beneath.

Ask The Specialists

We turned to a panel of consultants to study extra in regards to the potential impacts of dwelling in a polluted setting and learn how to take the initiative to assist clear issues up.

  1. In what methods does a unclean metropolis immediately have an effect on its residents?
  2. What steps can cities take to attain a cleaner setting and higher air high quality?
  3. Cleanliness isn’t low cost. How can native governments steadiness their budgets whereas spending the mandatory funds to maintain their cities clear?
  4. What classes can we study from a few of the world’s cleanest massive cities like Copenhagen and Singapore?
  5. How can particular person residents contribute to a cleaner metropolis?

Dr. Edgar Stach

Institute director and professor of structure at CABE

Thomas Jefferson College

In what methods does a unclean metropolis immediately have an effect on its residents?

First, we should outline what “soiled” actually means. From my perspective, it isn’t litter, however the impact on inhabitants well being and particular person well being that accompanies dwelling in an city space. There are a number of components from that perspective: air high quality, water high quality, and noise high quality. It isn’t an aesthetic problem; it’s about hazards on so many ranges that have an effect on a inhabitants’s well being.

Everybody’s well being is affected by publicity to air air pollution. Via our lungs, we breathe in air pollution. From there, they enter our our bodies and contribute to lung most cancers and different ailments.

Contaminated water and poor sanitation are linked to the transmission of ailments reminiscent of cholera, diarrhea, dysentery, hepatitis A, typhoid, and polio. Absent, insufficient, or inappropriately managed water and sanitation providers expose people to preventable well being dangers.

There are direct hyperlinks between noise and well being. Tens of millions of individuals are affected negatively by noise air pollution. Noise impacts us in a number of methods: stress-related diseases, hypertension, speech interference, listening to loss, sleep disruption, and misplaced productiveness.

What steps can cities take to attain a cleaner setting and higher air high quality?

I don’t suppose a cleaner setting solely means improved air high quality. That is about learn how to make cities cleaner altogether, in all facets of life. We have to cut back carbon-emitting vehicles, vans, and buses; site visitors emits so many pollution into the setting that affect us. We want to consider massive energy vegetation near, or inside, the cities.

Buildings in city areas emit CO2, warmth, and noise via heating techniques, air-conditioning, and constructing providers.

What we actually must look to do higher is to transition from primarily carbon-based vitality to inexperienced types of vitality. We have to exchange soiled air-polluting energy manufacturing with inexperienced vitality.

Our cities want extra inexperienced areas, bushes, and parks and fewer non-permeable surfaces like parking heaps. The city inexperienced may help by cleansing the air and producing zones of coolness in locations that have been as soon as warmth islands. Contemporary-air corridors want to stay in place to ventilate cities with recent air coming in from the countryside.

Cleanliness isn’t low cost. How can native governments steadiness their budgets whereas spending the mandatory funds to maintain their cities clear?

Laws and a few political benchmarking are wanted to cut back emissions at each stage. That may be finished by proscribing site visitors in areas to cut back air pollution. We are able to affect human conduct with monetary incentives –– issues like putting in photo voltaic panels on properties and amassing rainwater.

On a private stage, there are various issues we are able to do whereas there are additionally issues that communities and cities can do. However it all comes right down to figuring out methods to alter private conduct. Driving much less and utilizing bikes, public transportation, or strolling extra.

Behavioral change on an city stage means taking a look at how and the place we’re constructing and sustaining buildings, however doing that in smarter, extra accountable methods. Not all the things is free, however you can also make adjustments from one side to a different by decreasing subsidies or favoring one trade over one other with environmental advantages in thoughts, like spending much less cash on streets and extra on bike lanes.

What classes can we study from a few of the world’s cleanest massive cities like Copenhagen and Singapore?

After I consider cities, I don’t consider their governments or their buildings, however the individuals dwelling there.

Individuals in Copenhagen, Singapore, and different clear cities around the globe absolutely embrace the idea of carbon neutrality, inexperienced vitality, public transportation, and the power to bike and stroll safely. They absolutely embrace giving up particular person transportation in lieu of a livable metropolis.

To make the change in the direction of a greener, more healthy, and cleaner metropolis, good public transportation is the cornerstone. The general public transportation in Copenhagen and Singapore is incredible, which is why individuals use it, in contrast to a metropolis like Los Angeles which barely has any public transportation.

Remodeling a metropolis right into a clear and inexperienced one requires each a top-down method and a bottom-up method. For instance, town can flip carbon-based vitality manufacturing into inexperienced, localized vitality manufacturing. On the identical time, we –– the residents of cities –– can embrace carbon-neutral life.

The brand new clear metropolis method includes a number of gamers –– from transportation and vitality to the constructing sector –– in addition to human conduct.

How can particular person residents contribute to a cleaner metropolis?

As people, we have to take duty for our cities. It’s not solely town’s duty. We should collectively change the world. We have to embrace cleanliness on many ranges, from the best way we transfer to our every day habits. It’s not simply littering or trash on the streets. Whereas that could be essentially the most seen impact, there are extra extreme results tied to world warming, and that impacts all dwelling organisms on our planet.

Morgan Berman

Thomas Jefferson College alumna, Award-winning entrepreneur, and area people chief

Thomas Jefferson College

In what methods does a unclean metropolis immediately have an effect on its residents?

Litter has a spread of impacts, together with environmental, financial, well being, and even crime. At Glitter we’re working to take away litter from the streets in neighborhoods that always lack the assets to deal with this problem the best way wealthier areas with dense industrial exercise can.

In cities like Philadelphia, rich neighborhoods rent non-public cleaners to maintain streets clear. Missing the {dollars} and infrastructure, decrease and mixed-income residential areas are uncared for, resulting in a disproportionate stage of those adverse penalties for these residents.

And I’d encourage rethinking the usage of the phrase ‘residents’ for 2 causes: firstly, guests (whether or not native or foreign-born), are going to evaluate a metropolis by its stage of cleanliness. Simply have a look at Philadelphia –– we’ve sadly earned the nickname “Filthadelphia” –– and it has an affect on our picture and I’m certain our tourism trade amongst others. The second cause is that those that reside in a metropolis however will not be residents nonetheless need to reside in a clear and wholesome setting.

What steps can cities take to attain a cleaner setting and higher air high quality?

My focus with Glitter is empowering communities with an inexpensive and impactful avenue cleansing service that locations a cleaner on each block. We make it inexpensive for neighbors to pay-what-you-can-afford to separate the price of somebody coming and cleansing the block.

We had tried to combine this into our municipal providers with the Metropolis of Philadelphia’s Streets Division, getting as far as truly succeeding in a line merchandise within the metropolis’s finances, however the management modified their minds, and it’s been an uphill battle since then to collaborate.

Whereas we proceed to hope that issues enhance with that partnership, we’re rising and cleansing daily via our crowdfunding system with neighbors and are very enthusiastic about our success and affect there.

Cleanliness isn’t low cost. How can native governments steadiness their budgets whereas spending the mandatory funds to maintain their cities clear?

The very first thing that’s wanted is skilled and motivated management. When you will have that, then all the things else can work, however with out it, you get applications that lack KPIs, you get finances choices that aren’t tied to objectives, and also you get workers who don’t care.

We want a avenue cleansing program that’s designed to be efficient and environment friendly –– it requires accountability on each ends of the organizational hierarchy. Proper now there isn’t any at both finish. What we have now are gas-guzzling machines that burn fossil fuels, break down, and don’t clear sidewalks.

We have to cease spending cash on ‘campaigns’ and begin spending it on infrastructure that solves points which can be distinctive to our neighborhoods –– like in South Philly the place hundreds of rowhomes have been transformed into small flats with none out of doors storage entry to maintain trashbags, not to mention a garbage can.

What classes can we study from a few of the world’s cleanest massive cities like Copenhagen and Singapore?

I don’t know a lot about these cities so I can’t say what they’re doing nicely and the way that may translate –– particularly with out understanding the financial, structural, cultural, and political contexts of those locations.

What I can say is that cities like Philadelphia, the place litter is a significant drawback, must spend extra time understanding what isn’t working and why after which tackle these areas. For too lengthy we’ve had a Streets Commissioner who has been unwilling to confess once they falter, is intimidated by innovation, and is glad with the established order.

How can particular person residents contribute to a cleaner metropolis?

Glitter is designed in order that any resident can take an energetic position in cleansing up their metropolis, one block at a time. A resident can join a crowdfunding web page with Glitter, make a pledge, after which recruit different neighbors to chip in.

Our course of permits for normal cleansing of metropolis blocks that don’t benefit from a rich industrial hall. Glitter makes a clear stunning neighborhood accessible and equitable, particularly via matching grants, company sponsorship, and our affect fund donations that we use to offset prices in decrease revenue areas.


First, we decided the components (metrics) which can be most related to rank the Dirtiest Cities in America. We then assigned a weight to every issue primarily based on its significance and grouped these components into 4 classes: Air pollution, Dwelling Circumstances, Infrastructure, and Resident Dissatisfaction. The classes, components, and their weights are listed within the desk beneath.

For every of the five hundred greatest U.S. cities, we then gathered knowledge on every issue from the sources listed beneath the desk. We eradicated 197 cities missing ample knowledge in a single class, leading to a remaining pattern dimension of 303 cities.

Lastly, we calculated scores (out of 100 factors) for every metropolis to find out its rank in every issue, every class, and general. A metropolis’s Total Rating is the common of its scores throughout all components and classes. The best Total Rating ranked “Dirtiest” (No. 1) and the bottom “Least Soiled” (No. 303). Word: The “Least Soiled” amongst particular person components will not be No. 303 as a consequence of ties.

Sources: AARP, Facilities for Illness Management and Prevention, County Well being Rankings & Roadmaps, Numbeo, Different LawnStarter Research, Refuge Restrooms, Salvage-Components.com, Texas A&M Transportation Institute, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Census Bureau, U.S. Division of Vitality, and U.S. Environmental Safety Company

Last Ideas

At the moment, about 40% of U.S. residents reside in areas with unhealthy air high quality, inhaling pollution like particulate matter from wildfire smoke, oil refineries, and autos. Publicity to smog can result in well being penalties starting from bronchial asthma to being pregnant loss to lung most cancers. 

Some states and the federal authorities are implementing inexperienced insurance policies to counteract this soiled development. This yr, the Environmental Safety Company up to date its air high quality requirements for the primary time in 12 years and is taking further steps to limit emissions from energy vegetation

With such assorted components contributing to air pollution, there isn’t one resolution for cleansing up America’s dirtiest cities. Nonetheless, there are small steps that may be taken by people trying to make their residence and neighborhood cleaner and greener. 

Discover our guides beneath and rejoice Nationwide Upcycling Day on June 24. 

Rent a neighborhood LawnStarter crew to assist clear up your yard or implement a extra sustainable panorama. 

Oh, and what’s Nationwide Upcycling Day? As a substitute of trashing that outdated boot or bucket, flip it right into a flower container. Soiled cities can clear up a bit by repurposing gadgets that will in any other case wind up in a trash heap ready to be picked up with the rubbish. 

Media Sources

  • Houston (No. 9) steps down from 1st place final yr after breaking floor on a brand new strong waste administration facility. Whereas Houston has the most junkyards, 50, out of the cities in our rating, town additionally has extra refuse and recycling collectors per 100,000 residents than final yr.
  • Studying, Pennsylvania (No. 3), has the highest RSEI rating — a worth measuring poisonous chemical air pollution launched from industrial services — in our rating. Studying additionally has the highest share of residents who contemplate town soiled and untidy.
  • Michigan cities Detroit (No. 2) and Flint (No. 12) declare essentially the most properties missing full kitchen or plumbing services. Flint additionally has the highest share of people who smoke, 29.5%, adopted by Detroit, 29.1%.
  • Massive cities like New York (No. 16) and Houston (No. 9) are extra susceptible to infestations of pests like rats, roaches, and mattress bugs, which can account for his or her excessive Resident Dissatisfaction. Each cities’ metropolitan areas even have the highest ranges of annual extra gasoline consumption
  • Louisville, Kentucky (No. 65), and Boston (No. 182) have the most residents uncovered to near-roadway air pollution from high-traffic roads. 
  • 5 Texas cities, reminiscent of Corpus Christi (No. 68) and New Braunfels (No. 180), land among the many 10 cities with the highest ranges of greenhouse gasoline emissions per capita. Baytown (No. 10) produces the most242 metric tons of carbon dioxide per capita.

Essential Picture Credit score: wachiwit / Adobe Inventory / License


Sav Maive

Sav Maive is a author and director primarily based in San Antonio. Sav is a graduate of the College of Virginia and is a loving cat and plant mother.