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CityTree | © Tony Kershaw/South West News Service
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A Moss-Covered Wall is Combatting Pollution at London's Piccadilly Circus

Picture of Claire Lancaster
Tech & Entrepreneurship Editor
Updated: 22 March 2018
At London’s Piccadilly Circus, a moss-covered wall is combatting the city’s unsafe air quality levels.

CityTree, from Dresden-based start-up Green City Solutions, is a pollution-absorbing structure billed by the company as ‘the world’s first intelligent biological air filter’.

Filled with a variety of live moss that naturally combats air toxins, CityTree absorbs the same amount of pollution as 275 live trees, but takes up just 1% of the space.

The structure also cools the surrounding area, fighting the ‘urban heat island effect’.

The innovation has previously been installed in other cities across Europe, including Berlin, Paris and Amsterdam. It was this week introduced to London by The Crown Estate and Westminster City Council to fight pollution levels which ‘consistently breach legal annual air pollution limits within the first few weeks of the year’, according to Green City Solutions.

members-of-the-public-take-in-the-citytree (1)
CityTree | © Tony Kershaw/South West News Service

Powered by solar panels, the self-sustaining structure automatically collects and redistributes rainwater via a built-in irrigation system, while protective, shade-giving plants create an environment where the delicate, pollution-fighting mosses can thrive in urban conditions.

Embedded internet-connected sensors even allow CityTree to measure and maintain its own performance and the plants’ requirements.

Reflecting on CityTree’s installation in London, Councillor David Harvey, Cabinet Member for the Environment, Sport and Community at Westminster City Council said: ‘It will be fascinating to see what impact The CityTree has on pollution in the local area. This is just one example of the new technology we want to test across Westminster.’

‘Air quality is the number one concern for our residents and with over a million people moving into and travelling to our neighbourhoods each day it is crucial that we make more strides to clean up our air and tackle poor air quality for residents and visitors alike.’

Ahead of its installation, research from Green City Solutions revealed that approximately 9,000 Londoners and 50,000 Britons die prematurely each year from respiratory, cardiovascular and other illnesses associated with pollutants.

Similar smart tech solutions including a smog-sucking bicycle and a ‘vertical forest’ apartment block have previously been deployed in China, where air pollution levels are some of the most toxic in the world.