Stop Unsolicited Delivery of Phone Books

The other day, we received  — along with the rest of the neighborhood — another stack of phone books on our doorstep.  Oh joy.  We have not used printed phone books for years, relying instead on Google and other online directories.  Yet we continue to receive multiple stacks of phone books.

Normally I just dump the phone books in the recycle bin without a second thought, but this time I got to thinking: just how much waste does this create?  Turns out quite a bit.

Apparently there are over 7,000 different titles of Yellow Pages published in the U.S., including competing industry-specific, ethnic-targeted, and “underlay” or neighborhood-specific titles.  Over 540 million directories are distributed per year — that’s nearly two books for every person in the country!  This industry practice is called “saturation distribution.”  There are no rules, other than market demand, limiting the number of Yellow Pages titles printed in a single market.

To produce 500 million books requires:

  • 19 million trees
  • 1.6 billion pounds of paper
  • 7.2 million barrels of oil
  • 3.2 billion kilowatt hours of electricity

Only 40% of the paper used in phone books is recycled, and over 700 tons of phone books were dumped in landfills in 2007, consuming 268,000 cubic yards of landfill space.

This is just outrageous.  The yellow pages industry claims that nearly 90% of adults use print yellow pages each year, but I don’t know anyone who actually uses phone books anymore.  I’m sure there are those who continue to find value in printed phone books, but it seems to me there ought to be a way to opt out of delivery for those of us who no longer use phone books.

There are a couple of websites where consumers can sign up to be removed from delivery distribution lists — Paperless Petition and YellowPagesGoesGreen.  I don’t have personal experience as to whether this method is effective.

I launched a little website — Eco Yellow Pages — to add my voice to the opposition of yellow pages delivery practices, and to provide additional information and resources to consumers who want to stop delivery of phone books.  Check it out at

You can also fan EcoYP at Facebook 🙂

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