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Friday, June 25, 2010

Dump Your Phone Books at City Hall!

Posted by on Fri, Jun 25, 2010 at 2:53 PM

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.


Comments (13) RSS

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Steven Bradford 1
Who do we dump Bing and Google and Dex at for doing such a lousy job at local search?
Posted by Steven Bradford on June 25, 2010 at 3:39 PM · Report this
Fnarf 2
Government of the hip young iphone users, by the hip young iphone users, for the hip young iphone users. Fuck off grandma, why aren't you and your landline, yellowpages, CRT television, Pontiac, brick'n'mortar world dead yet?
Posted by Fnarf on June 25, 2010 at 3:39 PM · Report this
@Fnarf: would such a person though need a new phonebook every year? If they're fine with the lanline phone (which they likely still lease), a CRT television (with rabbit ears and a bad vertical hold circuit) and the Pontiac (with a carbeurator and points to gap) - then they are almost certainly comfortable dining at the same restaurant they have always dined at (at 4:30 pm).
Posted by kinaidos on June 25, 2010 at 4:00 PM · Report this
misterlevitan 4
Doesn't using anything but bicycle or foot transport to bring these dead trees to City Hall offset the Zero Waste goals of this fine city? Can't we just post photos of unused books on his blog?
Posted by misterlevitan on June 25, 2010 at 4:14 PM · Report this
in-frequent 5
@2 -- wouldn't the opt-in cover them?
Posted by in-frequent on June 25, 2010 at 4:24 PM · Report this
Fnarf 6
I guarantee that something in excess of 25% of the population of the city will never hear about or understand "the opt-in". I'm sure the email address to send one's opt-in request will be buried on some ultra-easy-to-find city webpage, which means it's accessible to everyone, right?
Posted by Fnarf on June 25, 2010 at 4:34 PM · Report this
Will in Seattle 7
Exactly, go to the Library and use the iPad there to view it.
Posted by Will in Seattle on June 25, 2010 at 4:44 PM · Report this
Free Lunch 8
Wouldn't it be more accurate to count new phone books that arrive at the recycling center? I'm no statistics expert, but I doubt there's a reliable method to extrapolate the total number of unwanted books from the number dropped off at city hall.
Posted by Free Lunch on June 25, 2010 at 5:24 PM · Report this
aw, snap. Qwest dropped off about 50 of those books at my apartment building last week and I had them come & take them back. They were pretty easy to deal with. I asked them to save the trip next year. We'll see how it goes. I asked Verizon in the past and they pretty much ignored me. The other companies that drop off the books make it difficult to get in touch with a representative.

Though I've never executed the plan, I had thought of contacting the premier advertisers of those phone books--the ones that advertise on the front/back/full page, etc and advising them that the books never made it to the intended recipients, could be found in our recycle bin and may wish to ask for a refund from the 'yellow pages' company that sold them the ad.
Posted by mattro2.0 on June 25, 2010 at 7:08 PM · Report this

With an Opt-In program, it would be the job of the phone book companies to inform you of your options. They have no problem getting 4 pounds of paper to every doorstep in the city - they can manage to distribute doorhangers or send postcards bulk mail. Comcast does it to people all over the city on a weekly basis. The phone book companies have every financial incentive to get people to opt-in. It's their job, not ours, to figure out their accurate distribution routes.
Posted by WorldShifting on June 25, 2010 at 7:51 PM · Report this
@6- That's still 75% that does understand; the majority rules. Go opt-in all the way!
Posted by Reuse_it on June 25, 2010 at 8:25 PM · Report this
ToddO 12
@4, I'm not sure that's the point. At least not for me, anyway. I haven't had a land line for the better part of a decade, yet Dex keeps sending me phone books. In fact they just tossed one down my driveway yesterday. I kicked the shit out of it (made me feel good), and then put it in the trash rather than the recycle bin (hey, not my fault -- if Dex didn't want this stuff to go into the landfill, they wouldn't have sent me a book). Had I known there was going to be a "dump your trash on city hall day", I would've saved it for then.

Although I'm sure whatever gets dumped on city hall will ultimately get recycled, so I'm happier I trashed it instead.
Posted by ToddO on June 25, 2010 at 9:10 PM · Report this
@2. You got it exactly right. The old people need to give it up and let the fresh blood, new ideas and that crazy change thing happen before we are bankrupt, ecologically devastated and all working for some branch of the military.
Posted by LiberatusQuirkus on June 26, 2010 at 8:09 AM · Report this

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