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Measure Your Impact

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illustration: "wasteless" garbage can, standing on scale

Your everyday actions and decisions have a direct impact on the amount of waste generated in New York City. Even a simple act like discarding a disposable coffee cup, which seems like an insignificant amount of waste, can quickly add up if thousands or millions of your fellow New Yorkers do the same. Changing your behavior and encouraging others to consider waste prevention can make a difference.

See how your behavior measures up. Enter your personal or household data and select your borough (or New York City, to see the impact citywide). Then click on "Measure my impact!" and watch what happens borough-wide or citywide.

Note: These figures are based on readily available population figures and other data derived from public sources. The resulting figures are estimates, based on a series of assumptions, and may not necessarily be accurate. The figures simply illustrate the potential impact of our personal activities.

You can measure your impact for all of the items below, or choose a specific item or items:

paper towels
magazines and catalogs
trash bags
razors
incandescent light bulbs

newspapers
dry cleaner products
motor oil
plastic milk and water jugs



Paper towels

illustration: paper towelsPaper towels are everywhere. We use them at home, in the workplace, and in public restrooms. Sure, they’re convenient, but reusable cloth rags, dishcloths, hand towels, and sponges can do the same job.

I use a paper towel    time(s) per week.

measure my impact

If everyone used paper towels this often, here’s how many tons would be discarded each year:

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illustration: catalogsMagazines and catalogs

Magazines and catalogs can stack up in your home before you even realize it. You chose to receive some, but others simply arrive in the mail, day after day. Recycling is an option, but preventing them from reaching you is a better strategy. Review your list of subscriptions and cancel those you don’t have time to read. Contact catalog companies and ask them to remove your name from their mailing lists. Sign up for the Direct Marketing Association’s Mail Preference Service. This free service is good for five years and can reduce the amount of unwanted mail you receive.

I receive   magazines and catalogs per month.

measure my impact

If everyone received this many magazines and catalogs, here’s how many tons of paper would be discarded each year:

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illustration: plastic bagTrash bags

Do you buy trash bags? Save money and reduce waste by reusing grocery and other types of bags that might otherwise be thrown away or recycled. If you have to buy trash bags, consider purchasing ones made with recycled plastic.

We use   trash bags each week.

measure my impact

If every household used this many trash bags, here’s how many tons would be discarded each year:

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illustration: razorRazors

Razors are part of many New Yorkers’ daily routine. You probably buy, use, and discard razors or razor heads repeatedly throughout the year. Using electric razors or reusable razors can reduce waste and save you money. Also, look for razors with less packaging. While these items may seem too small to worry about, consider what happens to New York City’s waste stream when everyone discards these items.

I use:
disposable razors
a reusable razor with disposable heads

I discard   razors or razor heads each month.

measure my impact

If everyone did this, here’s how many tons of waste would be generated every year:


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Incandescent light bulbs

illustration: lightbulbIncandescent light bulbs are everywhere in our homes. They continually burn out and need to be replaced. Turning off the lights in rooms that are not in use will extend the life of the light bulbs. Compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) are a practical replacement, because they use much less energy, last 10 to 15 times longer, and produce much less heat. Visit the hardware store in our shopping tips for more info on reducing waste from compact fluorescents and other home improvement products.

We change   light bulb(s) every six months.

measure my impact

If every household discarded this many light bulbs, here’s how many tons would be discarded each year:

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illustration: newspaperNewspapers

New Yorkers are well-informed people. While the quantity of newspaper waste created each day is astounding, recycling can keep newspapers out of landfills. Another way to reduce the heaps of old newspapers and save money is to read the news online, since most of the major papers are now available on the internet.

I buy  newspaper(s) every week.

measure my impact

If everyone bought this many newspapers, here’s how many tons of paper would be discarded each year:

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illustration: clothes hangersDry Cleaner Products 

Every time you pick up an item from the dry cleaner, you bring home plastic dry cleaning bags and wire hangers. Choose a cleaner that offers reusable bags. Return hangers for reuse, or recycle them. Ask your cleaner to combine clothing articles into fewer bags. Visit the dry cleaner section in our shopping tips for more information on reducing waste from dry cleaning.

I pick up clothes at the dry cleaners   times per year.

I receive an average of   hangers and   plastic dry cleaning bags on each visit.

measure my impact

If everyone used the dry cleaners this often, here’s how much waste would be generated each year:

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illustration: oil canMotor oil

Many New Yorkers are do-it-yourselfers when it comes to car care. The problem comes when it is time to discard used motor oil. Dumping oil into storm drains can contaminate local waterways. Take used motor oil back to the service station where you bought it for safe disposal. You can also take motor oil and other special waste, such as latex-based paint, household batteries, and flourescent light tubes, to any NYC Department of Sanitation Household Special Waste Drop-Off Site. In addition, buy re-refined motor oil. Did you know that a 42-gallon barrel of crude oil produces only 2.5 quarts of motor oil, but it takes only 1 gallon of used oil to produce those same 2.5 quarts?

I drain   quarts of oil from my vehicle   times in a year.

measure my impact

If everyone with a car performed this car maintenance, here’s how much waste would be generated each year:

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illustration: milk jugPlastic milk and water jugs

The average New Yorker drinks more than 20 gallons of milk a year. Also, many households purchase jugs of water instead of drinking NYC's excellent tap water. A family of four is likely go through several plastic jugs each week. Plastic jugs are collected for recycling in New York City.

We drink   gallons of milk and/or water from plastic jugs each week.

measure my impact

If every household used this many jugs, here’s how many tons would be generated each year:

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