Los Angeles, California: The Polluted Center Of Creativity

Los Angeles is ranked 1st in the list of most ozone-polluted city

It is also ranked 4th as the most polluted city by annual particle pollution, and the 4th most polluted city by 24-hour particle pollution. Needless to say, it is a city with grave air quality that has led to noxious consequences.

In spite of this, the culturally diverse city of Los Angeles – nicknamed the entertainment capital of the world – continues to host millions of tourists each year with its many attractions including museums, shopping centers, and theme parks.

Universal Studios Hollywood in Los Angeles (Expedia)

Los Angeles is the 2nd most populated city in the United States, boasting a population of approximately 4 million residents. 

Despite being the 21st most visited city in the world, Los Angeles continues to face social issues like homelessness, as well as environmental issues like air pollution, stormwater pollution, and plastic pollution from several non-point sources.


As one of the most pressing issues in Los Angeles, homelessness continues to rise and lead to increased morbidity and mortality in homeless populations.

The homeless count shows 12.7% rise from last year despite a sustained increase in the number of people rehoused. 

  • In 2019, an estimated 52,686 people were resolved out of homelessness, but another 82,955 people fell into homelessness in LA. In order words, 207 people on average exit homelessness every day while 227 people become homeless.
  • A poll reported that 95% of people stated homelessness to be the biggest issue in Los Angeles.

Due to increasing cost of living, homelessness stands as a major issue in Los Angeles that continues to grow each year.


The Los Angeles air basin has the worst air quality of any area of the United States.

Air Pollution in Southern California (USC News)

  • Diesel engines, ports, motor vehicles, and industries are the main sources of gas emissions that lead to unhealthy air in Los Angeles. 
  • The area does not meet the Clean Air Act health-based standards for ozone and fine particulate matter (PM2.5), two critical components of smog.
  • According to a 2020 report, Los Angeles retains its status as the city with the worst ozone pollution in the US. 


As a major contributor of trash, stormwater pollution leads to tons of trash being swept away from urban areas in L.A. and ending in the oceans and beach shores. This poses a hazard to many marine organisms and humans alike.

The County Trash Nets in Ballona Creek and the Los Angeles River capture nearly 200 tons of litter each year before it flows out into the ocean. That’s more than one piece of trash per each of the 10 million LA County residents.

  • In Los Angeles County, approximately 100 million gallons of polluted water and debris, enough to fill 1.2 Rose Bowl stadiums, drain through storm drains each day. 

Trash ending in Ballona creek, Los Angeles after a storm (Los Angeles Times)

Under the current guidelines, L.A. County won’t achieve its collective clean water goal until 2082 — more than 60 years after the deadline.


Plastic Pollution from the Los Angeles County (County of Los Angeles)

  • The L.A. County recycles less than 10% of all single-use plastics resulting in tons of non-degradable plastics that hogs the landfills and pollutes Los Angeles neighborhoods and oceans.

L.A. County creates about 28 million tons of solid waste each year, with the majority headed to the already taxed landfills.

In Los Angeles County, plastic makes 10% of the total waste produced by the residents and 9.2% of the total commercial waste streams. Although plastics only make up a small portion of the waste stream in terms of mass, they often make their way to beaches and streams, polluting the wildlife and ecosystem.


In 2014, single-use plastic bags were banned at the stores in the County unincorporated areas, while requiring they charge 10¢ for each paper carryout bag sold to a customer.

  • In order to meet the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) Permit, Los Angeles County created the Stormwater Public Education Program to educate the public on actions to prevent pollution and keep the waterways clean.
  • In 2019, the Los Angeles’ Green New Deal Plan was launched, which seeks to set high goals for a more sustainable future and pushes LA to be carbon neutral by 2050. 
  • To combat increasing numbers of homeless people in 2017, Los Angeles County approved Measure H, the “Los Angeles County Homeless Initiative”. Through generating funds from taxes, the measure managed to generate enough funds to place 7,448 homeless families in permanent housing within the first year.


Heal the Bay, an environmental nonprofit dedicated to making coastal water in the Los Angeles county safe and clean, has largely contributed to a significant improvement in water quality of Los Angeles: 

  • They organized 13,914 volunteers who removed more than 30,165 pounds of trash from 79 locations in Los Angeles County over a duration of 3 hours on Coastal Cleanup Day in 2019.

Coastal Cleanup Day 2019 by Heal the Bay in Los Angeles County (Heal the bay)

  • Removed more than 4 million pieces of trash and debris from the natural environment.
  • Educated thousands of students in LA County about plastic pollution
  • Provided water quality information to 450 California beaches each week
  • Made daily water quality predictions at dozens of sites

Through the relentless efforts of the community, Heal the Bay was able to accomplish many victories towards a more sustainable future such as securing passage for Measure W, a stormwater recycling program,  in 2018, which will “capture and reuse billions of gallons of stormwater each year instead of polluting the sea.”


L.A. Works is a nonprofit volunteer action center that implements community service projects and assists in CSR Projects for companies. A few examples of recent partners include:

  • 500 Netflix staff from around the world beautified an early education center during their annual off-site
  • 125 Freddie Mac employees made hygiene kits and no-sew blankets for people currently experiencing homelessness.
  • 30 environmental lawyers attending the ABA Conference spent the morning helping weed, mulch, and water a park along the LA River.


Despite the many actions taken towards reducing pollution in LA County, the fact remains that Los Angeles continues to be plagued by pollution. The solution to these problems lies with a Circular Economy.

Circular Economy (Barnabythinks)

A circular economy is where the value of the product is retained and waste is minimized. Our current linear economy with the ‘take, make, dispose’ system is not sustainable but, by adopting a circular economy approach, Los Angeles can aim towards a greener future and fulfill many of its sustainable goals along the way. 


Besides stricter regulations on waste segregation and plastic use, circular economy solutions and initiatives necessary for reducing the waste in Los Angeles includes:

  • Installing more catch basins to reduce the amount of trash swept into the oceans
  • Creating rain gardens to reduce amount of stormwater runoff
  • Enforcing a stricter Recycling Management System
  • Encouraging the installation of clean diesel engines to reduce gas emissions
  • Encouraging public modes of transportation to reduce gas emissions
  • Transitioning to more renewable energy sources instead of fossil fuels

Through collective efforts and awareness from the community and the authorities, a more sustainable future can be achieved. 


Initiated in Delhi, India, the Earth5R team succeeded in implementing an effective circular economy model through the plastic reuse program in the Community Center of Shalimar Bagh District. 

Through the program, the Earth5R reused plastic containers and bottles for growing saplings. The goal of the program was to reuse plastic for a plantation at Delhi.

Plastic containers and bottles reused by the residents to grow saplings (Earth5R)

The Earth5R team gave a brief demonstration on planting a seedling and showcased the necessary precautions and steps to encourage the healthy growth of the plant.

Active participation from the residents led to an enriching experience with environmental, social, and economic benefits:

Environmental: Reduced plastic waste in landfills, more trees, less pollution

Social: Knowledge of ways to reduce plastic waste and benefit environment

Economic: Revenue generated for the people through selling saplings for plantation.

Earth5R volunteers at Delhi train citizens to upcycle plastic and reuse it as planters (Earth5R)

Such circular economy projects are necessary for a more sustainable and healthy environment not only in India but also in Los Angeles and all over the world. 

Reach out to Earth5R to know more about solving environmental issues by creating circular economy based sustainability projects.


Earth5R is an environmental organization from India with its head office at Mumbai. It works with the NGO sector, Companies and helps them conduct environmental corporate social responsibility (CSR) programs across India. Earth5R specializes in circular economy based projects. Earth5R also offers short term and long term environmental courses.

Earth5R’s Global Sustainability Hub is a cross-sector and cross-country collaboration in pursuit of UN Sustainable Development Goals. It is an excellent opportunity for governments and the private sector to engage with communities, use Sustainability-based models to drive economic changes, and create social and environmental impact.

Reported by Claire Hsu, edited by Riya Dani