Air pollution removal by green infrastructure

Green infrastructure, such as parks, gardens, woodlands and the wider countryside, has an important role to play in making the places where we live sustainable. One way green infrastructure does this is by reducing our exposure to harmful pollutants in the air, providing significant health benefits. The infographic below shows the amount of air pollution removed per hectare of green infrastructure in Scotland. That amount varies across cities, towns and rural areas.

Click on the infographic to enlarge it.

air pollution removal infographic

Removal of air pollutants by green infrastructure in Scotland

In Scotland, over 426 million kilograms of air pollution were estimated to be removed by vegetation in 2015, which means that an average of 54 kilograms of air pollutants are removed per hectare of green infrastructure (Jones et al, 2017). The weight icons in the infographic illustrate the amount of air pollution removed in different parts of Scotland. Labels attached to each of the weights show how much air pollution is estimated to be removed per hectare of green infrastructure in each location. Note that the infographic does not show the level of pollution in each of the areas

Health benefits

Reducing exposure to harmful pollutants benefits our health. Green infrastructure improves air quality by removing sulphur dioxide (SO2), coarse and fine particulate matter (PM2.5 and PM10), ammonia (NH3), nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and ground level ozone (O3).

Research suggests that the estimated amount of pollutants removed by vegetation in Scotland saved around £59 million in health costs as a result of fewer health conditions needing treatment and fewer life years lost (Jones et al, 2017).

Displaying the data

The infographic shows each council area in Scotland according to the density of urban development, as classified by the Local Government Benchmarking Framework (2018). Largely urban areas are placed on the left hand side, with semi-urban and semi-rural areas towards the middle, and predominantly rural areas on the right.

Each label that is attached to a weight represents a different geographic area that has a data-point in the dataset used (ONS, 2018). Generally, each of the areas relates to a council administrative area. However, the dataset groups together some council areas and does not provide separate figures for all. For example, ‘Aberdeen + Aberdeenshire’ are two separate councils (a city and a predominantly rural area) but are only given one data-point. Therefore, some of the dataset groupings may cut across the classification of urban development. Where this happens, the data is shown on the infographic at the mid-point between the different classifications. This may skew the position of some of the council areas on the infographic.

The councils that have been grouped together in the dataset are shown on the same label on the infographic and have a ‘+’ sign. Where ‘&’ is used on a label, it is (with one exception) part of a council's actual name. For example, the label ‘East + West Dunbartonshire + Helensburgh & Lomond’ relates to three local authority areas: East Dunbartonshire Council, West Dunbartonshire Council, and Helensburgh & Lomond (which forms part of Argyll & Bute Council).


Jones, L., et al (2017). Developing Estimates for the Valuation of Air Pollution Removal in Ecosystem Accounts. Office of National Statistics.

Local Government Benchmarking Framework (2018). National Benchmarking Overview Report 2016/17.

Office for National Statistics (2018). UK Natural Capital Accounts dataset 2015.

This infographic appeared in JONO Design e-news. The e-news is published once every couple of months and each issue contains a specially designed infographic.

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