Seattle stops yellow pages phone books waste. Seattle has passed a law banning the distribution of unwanted yellow pages phone books within the city.
Last September, we wrote about the completely avoidable waste problem posed by unwanted phone books delivered by competing companies to our doorsteps, every year. Seattle, finally did something about it this October. A law that’s said to be the first in the country has been passed by the Seattle city council virtually banning the distribution of unwanted phone books to city residents and obligating the yellow pages companies to pay for the recovery and recycling of their litter.
The phone book problem is by no means limited to Seattle. The entire country has to cope with an estimated 650,000 tons of phone books ditributed to U.S. residences every year. Pablo Päster, a greenhouse gas engineer and columnist at Treehugger.com puts the financial burden imposed on all of us by the phone book companies in proper perspective:
“Annually an estimated 650,000 tons of phone books are distributed to America’s 100+ million households. At an EPA estimated national recycling rate of 18%, only 117,000 tons of phone books are recycled each year, many of them on the day that they are received. Product Stewardship Institute estimates that it costs between $50 and $75 per ton to recycle phone books and between $75 and $100 to dispose of them in a landfill. So annually we spend between $45 and $62 million just to get rid of unwanted or old phone books, or $0.45-0.60 per household.”
Read more recycling facts here.
The new Seattle law, Ordinance 123427 sponsored by Councilmember Mike O’Brien and signed by Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn on Oct 14, 2010 imposes a recovery fee of “fourteen Cents ($0.14) for each yellow pages phone book distributed within the City plus One Hundred Forty-Eight Dollars ($148.00) per ton of yellow pages phone books distributed within the City.” The amount collected from the recovery fee is expected to finance the online registry for city residents to opt-out of receiving phone books and help offset the cost of recovery and recycling of yellow pages phonebooks now shouldered by city taxpayers.
The law which will take full effect on April 1, 2011 is in line with city’s waste reduction goals of achieving a 70% recycling rate over the long term. Councilmember O’Brien remarks:
“Seattleites are constantly looking for ways to reduce their impact on the environment, and the Council has heard from an overwhelming number of people who don’t want phone books.
“Creating a one-stop shop managed by a third party will help reduce clutter, increase residential security, and, save Seattle Public Utilities customers, the people of Seattle, money.”
The yellow pages companies, however, have opposed the law and are mulling legal action to prevent its implementation. Foremost among their concerns is the proposed website that will enable Seattle residents from opting out of phone book deliveries. The publishers contend that since they’re already running a national registry web page for all U.S. residents to opt-out of yellow pages phone book distribution, establishing a new website to serve only one city is unnecessary, redundant, and costly. At present, U.S. residents can choose not to receive phone books by simply entering their zip codes in a registry at the Yellow Pages Association web site. The industry group is also planning to launch a separate web site for this purpose in 2011.
While this news is much welcome and is in fact, a significant step toward completely eliminating this waste, one glaring omission is notable. Yellow pages are just half of the equation, how about the white pages phone books? These volumes constitute half (if not more) of the actual phone books distributed (and wasted) every year. When are we going to see a ban of these wasteful and unnecessary items?