Phone Books

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The Problem: Volume, Cost

According to the Product Stewardship Institute (PSI), the availability of online search resources means fewer people are using conventional print telephone directories every year.  However, more than 650,000 tons of telephone directories are still delivered annually to households and businesses across the U.S.  While one-third of all telephone directories are recycled, 410,000 tons of phone directories still find their way to landfills or waste-to-energy facilities costing U.S. taxpayers around $60 million each year in management costs. Local governments spend around $54 million annually to dispose of directories and about $9 million to recycle them.  Telephone directory recycling also presents operational challenges, as directories are often distributed with materials that contaminate the recycling process, such as glues, magnets and plastic film. This costs recyclers and local government money as magnets and plastic film contaminate the paper recycling process.

A 2013 survey by RingCentral found that more than half of U.S. adults (58%) said that they use phone books at home, work or both.

Publishers note that telephone directories are 100% recyclables and are made using soy-based and non-toxic inks, glues and dyes.  According to the Pulp and Paper Products Council, the Yellow Pages reduced paper by nearly 60% from 2007-2012 and are projected to increase reduction to more than 60% by 2014. 

Take Action on Phone Books

The Product Stewardship Institute (PSI) is working to reduce unwanted telephone directories and increase recycling.  PSI has information on telephone directory legislation in U.S. communities as well as an infographic on how many phone books go to waste (PDF).  Consumers may opt-out of receiving telephone directories here.