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.