Residents of the Minneapolis-St. Paul and Dallas-Fort Worth metros think highly of where they live — at least, according to a new YouGov poll, in terms of city cleanliness. The same poll found respondents in New York, Los Angeles and Philadelphia don’t have as glistening of a view of their cities’ shine.
The market research firm asked online respondents in the 20 biggest U.S. metros whether they considered their city “very clean” or “somewhat clean.” In the Minneapolis-St. Paul and Dallas-Fort Worth areas, 90 percent of those who answered said yes. Denver ranked near the top, with 87 percent clicking favorably, followed by the Orlando-Daytona Beach-Melbourne area (86 percent) and the Miami-Fort Lauderdale area (84 percent).
YouGov’s online-only methods could skew results (you must have internet access), though it maintains that it weights its data to accurately reflect a national audience. However, there are notable deep structural inequities built into cities’ trash collection systems. Like freeways, transfer stations, landfills and incinerators have historically been placed in “the path of least resistance, which was low-income communities of color,” according to environmental justice scholar Robert Bullard, who has been chronicling the issue for decades. If a poll like this asked about cleanliness, but wasn’t able to get to those most affected by the negative health impacts of trash systems, it may have missed a large swath of information.
Still, the results provide an interesting side-by-side comparison. And Dallas’ success is particularly compelling, considering the city’s attempts to make trash collection more seamless with a free app that reminds residents to put out their garbage and recycling. Dallas passed a zero waste plan in 2013, with a target of 40 percent of waste going to recycling by 2020.
Boston is another city innovating in the area of garbage collection. Last year, officials put out solar-powered trash receptacles that provide real-time data to waste management companies. The system allows those companies to send out pickup trucks only when necessary, and conserve fuel. Houston, meanwhile, has pushed curbside recycling via art-decorated trucks and, nationwide, upward of 600 municipal projects are converting landfill gas to energy.
Rachel Dovey is an award-winning freelance writer and former USC Annenberg fellow living at the northern tip of California’s Bay Area. She writes about infrastructure, water and climate change and has been published by Bust, Wired, Paste, SF Weekly, the East Bay Express and the North Bay Bohemian.