Planting trees near factories can reduce air pollution by 27 percent

Planting trees near factories can cuts down air pollution by 27 percent, study

Planting trees around landscapes near factories and other sources of pollution reduces air pollution by 27 percent. This is a more viable and less expensive option than the use of technology.

The study published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology Emphasizing that it is air conditioning equipment rather than a range of industrial sites, roads, power plants, commercial boilers and oil and gas wells that are also cheaper.

In fact, researchers found that 75 percent of the analyzed districts were less likely to use air pollution control equipment than to add technical interventions – such as chimney scrubbers – to the sources of pollution.

It’s trees and not technology that will help clean the air near a range of industrial sites, roads, power plants, commercial boilers and oil and gas wells, and they will be cheaper too.

“The fact is that traditionally, especially as engineers, we do not think about nature, but focus only on putting technology into everything,” said senior author Bhavik Bakshi, a professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering at Ohio State University.

“So one important insight is that we need to start looking at and learning from and respecting nature, and when we do that, there are win-win opportunities – options that are potentially cheaper and more environmentally friendly,” Bakshi added added.

The analysis showed that for a given sector – industrial boilers – air purification with technology is cheaper than upgrading ecosystems. And for the manufacturing sector – a broad industry – both ecosystems and technologies could offer cost savings depending on the factory.

To understand the impact of trees and other plants on air pollution, researchers in the lower 48 states collected public data on air pollution and vegetation on a district basis. Then they calculated what the addition of additional trees and plants could cost.

Their calculations included the ability of current vegetation – including trees, grasslands and scrubland – to reduce air pollution. They also looked at the impact air pollution restoration plant could have on raising the vegetation coverage of a given district to the average level of the district.

Air pollution can be deadly. Picture credits: A coal power plant. Uwe Aranas / Shutterstock

Air pollution can be deadly. Picture credits: A coal power plant. Uwe Aranas / Shutterstock

The researchers found that restoration of vegetation reduced air pollution in the counties by an average of 27 percent. This number varies by county and region. For example, consider a county in the Nevada desert and a county in the farmlands of Ohio.

Their research did not calculate the direct effects that plants could have on ozone pollution because, according to Bakshi, the data on ozone emissions are missing.

The analysis also did not consider whether certain tree or plant species would “scrub” air pollution better, though Bakshi said it was likely that the plant species would cause a difference in air quality.

They found that adding trees or other crops could reduce air pollution in both urban and rural areas, although success rates depend, among other things, on how much land was available for growing new plants and what air quality currently prevails.

“What we’re interested in is essentially to make sure that engineering makes a positive contribution to sustainable development, and one important reason why engineering did not do that is because engineering has kept nature outside its system boundaries,” said Bakshi.


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