Cleanest Cities in the World

Definitions of cleanliness and a “clean” city can vary greatly. A clean city doesn’t necessarily mean one can eat off of the streets or sidewalks. A clean city can be a lack of trash in the streets, an abundance of clean water, or high air quality – or all three.

To be a clean city, the problems that lead to unsanitary and unhealthy living conditions need to be solved. This includes waste management, creating transportation infrastructure is using energy-efficient and green technology, preventing littering, and implementing policies that ensure cleanliness.

Pollution is a large factor in determining the cleanliness of a city. Pollution is the introduction of contaminants into the air and environment causing adverse effects. Pollution damages the environment and the human body as air pollution is a cause for lung cancer, cardiovascular disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and other serious health issues.

Due to a variety of factors, cities around the world experience different levels of pollution. For several years, cities have been working on green initiatives to implement cleaner means of transportation, processes, and lower the levels of pollution. In the United States, Congress passed several Clean Air Acts in an attempt to enforce stricter pollution regulations, resulting in dramatic decreases in pollution levels such as carbon dioxide emissions and particulate emissions.

Best Life analyzed 200 of the world's largest cities to determine which were the cleanest. The analysis included air pollution levels (both PM10 and PM2.5), the quality of life ranking according to Mercer, the country's Environmental Performance Index, and if the city has a spot on Monocle's Quality of Life survey. Not all cities on the list have a Mercer and Monocle ranking.

Based on these data points, the cleanest cities in the world (and their clean city scores) are:

  1. London, England, United Kingdom (74.94)
  2. Paris, France (74.90)
  3. New York City, New York, United States (74.89)
  4. Madrid, Spain (72.66)
  5. Auckland, New Zealand (71.97)
  6. Hamburg, Germany (71.32)
  7. Barcelona, Spain (70.46)
  8. Berlin, Germany (70.28)
  9. Vienna, Austria (70.17)
  10. Sapporo, Japan (68.89)

The cleanest city in the world is London in the United Kingdom. London has an overall clean city score of 74.94 and an Environmental Performance Index score of 79.89. This is followed by Paris and New York City. New York City may come as a surprise to many considering it is the most populated and the most densely populated city in the United States with a population of over 8.3 million and a density of 27,755 persons per square mile.

Because about 55% of the world’s population lives in urban areas, making them the most densely populated areas in the world, keeping cities clean is a challenge. With the worldwide urban population expected to rise to 68% of the world’s population in the next few decades, both governments and residents need to work hard to preserve the cleanliness and quality of cities.

City Country PM2.5 (µg/m³) Clean City Score Monocle Qual. of Life Rank Env. Perf. Score Mercer Score
LondonUnited Kingdom974.9479.8940
ParisFrance1874.983.9538
New YorkUnited States974.8979.8944
MadridSpain1072.661078.3951
AucklandNew Zealand671.9775.963
HamburgGermany1471.32978.3719
BarcelonaSpain1570.461778.3942
BerlinGermany1670.28378.3713
ViennaAustria1870.17278.971
SapporoJapan1068.8974.69
MelbourneAustralia868.8374.1216
RomeItaly1767.9676.9657
TorontoCanada867.6372.1816
MontrealCanada1067.0272.1823
PhoenixUnited States966.1971.19
TokyoJapan1570.09174.6947
KyotoJapan1566.051274.69
YokohamaJapan1565.8974.6951
PhiladelphiaUnited States965.5971.1956
NagoyaJapan1665.4974.6963
HoustonUnited States1065.3971.1967
Los AngelesUnited States1164.9971.1958
OsakaJapan1764.8974.6960
ChicagoUnited States1264.3971.1947
FukuokaJapan1963.891474.69
TaipeiTaiwan1963.4572.8485
New Taipei CityTaiwan1963.4472.84
TaichungTaiwan2958.2972.84101
TainanTaiwan2958.1672.84
KaohsiungTaiwan3057.772.84
SingaporeSingapore1854.632164.2325
BudapestHungary2554.2165.0178
BucharestRomania2354.0464.78107
CuritibaBrazil1153.6260.7
CaliColombia1753.5365.22
MoscowRussia2053.3363.79168
AlexandriaEgypt1753.2661.21
WarsawPoland2652.3164.1181
Porto AlegreBrazil1352.360.7
Buenos AiresArgentina1451.2459.393
Davao CityPhilippines1151.2457.65
MedellinColombia2650.9165.22
BogotáColombia2450.0465.22129
São PauloBrazil1949.960.7121
DaejeonSouth Korea2249.7862.3
KwangjuSouth Korea2249.762.3
CaracasVenezuela2549.463.89189
DaeguSouth Korea2448.5662.3
SeoulSouth Korea2448.2562.376
Rio de JaneiroBrazil1647.760.7118

Cleanest Cities in the World by Population 2022

Sources