Don’t know what to do with those big, bulky phone books lying outside your house? Take them to Seattle City Hall (5th Avenue and James Street). Seattle city council member Mike O’Brien is doing a phone book collection to track how many people here actually use them.
The council is currently trying to figure out whether Seattle should adopt an opt-in policy—requiring that phone books be delivered only to those who request them—or an opt-out policy that would allow people to request that they not receive a phone book.
On Tuesday, O’Brien and members of the Seattle Public Utilities and Neighborhood Committee asked city officials to explore an enhanced opt-out policy for Yellow Pages, which might even include an ordinance requiring phone book companies to honor opt-out requests. The city is also investigating the legal implications of an opt-in policy and the option of charging phone book companies a fee for every phone book delivered in the city.
In a post titled “Phonebooks: Good or Bad?” on his blog, O’Brien says that phone books started arriving at his office right after Tuesday's meeting. “This morning my aide brought in a Verizon SuperPages Yellow Pages that was mailed to her yesterday—I am curious how much it cost SuperPages to mail a 2lb. 13oz phone book,” he says. “Then this afternoon at work, Dex dropped off 42 copies of their Yellow Pages and 48 copies of the White Pages.” O’Brien says he decided to take up a collection. “If you receive unwanted phone books, I encourage you to bring them down to city hall and drop them off for my office, and I will store them here as we ponder what to do next.”
Getting rid of unused phone books that end up in the waste stream is part of the Seattle City Council’s zero waste goals for this year. Yellow Pages are estimated to generate 1,300 tons of waste at a cost of $190,000 per year to the city.
“We want to overwhelm him with books,” said Heather Trim of Zero Waste Seattle, which supports an opt-in policy.
It would be even better, says O’Brien, if people attach a brief story about their unwanted phone books: Do you not use Yellow Pages at all? Do you use Yellow Pages, but feel you can go without multiple copies? Do you have a favorite brand? What steps have you taken previously to stop receiving phone books and did it work? Or maybe you feel the existing phone book system works well for you?
If you don’t want to drag your unwanted yellow pages into City Hall but want to share a story, you can post it here.