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Policies & PoliticsRecycling

Who Needs a Phone Book?

A Minnesota environmental agency estimates 88% of phone directories are discarded despite a state recycling law.

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As the Internet becomes the resource more Americans turn to for phone numbers, lawmakers are beginning to examine the proliferation of unwanted phone books — and their environmental impact. A Minnesota legislator, Rep. Paul Gardner, has introduced state legislation to allow consumers to opt-out of receiving the paper directories, but is taking a wait-and-see approach on a voluntary initiative by phone services to allow convenient opt-out. Several other states have considered such a law, but none has passed.

Minnesota’s Pollution Control Agency estimates that only 12% of discarded phone books were recycled in 2006, meaning 11,538 tons of them ended up as municipal solid waste.  This is despite a 1992 state law that bans disposal of phone books as solid waste and requires phone companies to make recycling options available.  The agency also figures that if about 50% of state consumers opted out of receiving phone books, this would prevent 14,000 metric tons of “carbon dioxide equivalent.”  A Twin Cities blogger is so tired of receiving phone books he doesn’t need that he posted a video of his comical effort to return one. Meanwhile, a private nonprofit group, Yellowpagesgoesgreen.org, has signed up more than 3,000 Minnesotans who want to opt out. And there are other options.

Gardner is also the author of a proposed product stewardship law for the state.

Image credit:  Minnesota Pollution Control Agency.




4 comments
  1. Dave Dempsey

    The beauty of opt-out is that any consumer who still would like a paper directory can get one (or more) simply by refraining from opting out. In Minnesota, rural residents particularly still rely on paper directories.

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