Opting Out (of Telephone Books) Feels So Good

No more telephone books on my front porch, thank you very much.

“Don’t touch that bag” I hollered to my husband who was starting to bend to collect our latest unwanted telephone directory off our front porch.

“Huh? Why?” he asked looking a bit stunned that he actually had been asked to ignore something that obviously needed to be picked up.

“I don’t want it in the house. I want to take a picture of it on the porch. I’m going to write about it.” I answered. Lucky for both us, my husband is an accepting guy. He didn’t even care that it took me a couple days to actually remember to bring the camera to our front door to snap the picture.

Only after I digitally documented its delivery did I pick up the orange plastic bag, carrying it into the house as if the contents were contaminated. I dropped it on the kitchen table and let out a dreaded sigh. I forgot – AGAIN – to opt out of another unsolicited delivery of telephone books.

These local fingers-do-the-walking registries are a serious annoyance to me. They get delivered to my doorstep and then I take them to the curb to be recycled. How stupid! I can’t think of the last time I cracked open the Yellow Pages to find a number. Like most people, I turn to the Internet to find phone numbers.

My frustration is shared. Unwanted telephone books are enemy number one for a growing number of zero waste-driven communities and those municipalities looking to reduce recycling costs.

Take Seattle, WA. It’s the first city in the country to create an opt-out registry to allow its residents and businesses to stop delivery of Yellow Pages phone books. In the first 12 days after launching its opt-out website on May 5, more than 27,000 households and business opted out of 175,000 phone books. According to the Seattle Public Utilities Commission, there were an estimated 2 million Yellow Pages phone books recycled in Seattle every year at a cost of about $350,000 to taxpayers.

Other municipalities are watching the page-turning controversy and will likely follow suit if the Local Search Association, formerly the Yellow Pages Association, loses its legal fight against efforts like these.

The Local Search Association introduced a national opt-out website earlier this year and claims similar registries duplicate their efforts and confuse residents. But Seattle’s legislation comes with hefty fines for deliveries that occur after residents opt out.

Last week’s delivery pushed me to finally sit down and go to www.YellowPagesOptOut.com, a website that is advertised on the bag containing the Yellow Pages. It’s so obvious, it’s easy to miss.

Once on the website, I entered my zip code, 44107, and was surprised to find that I was “eligible” (according to the Yellow folks) to receive a total of six telephone directories. No wonder I was so irritated. The books varied from Greater Cleveland, Western Ohio Companion, Northeastern Ohio and three others.

I registered my name, address, email and phone number, and then received an email with a password. I then logged back into the site and opted out of all six books.

According to the website if I selected to opt out of a directory “within 6-12 weeks of the directory's publication date” I may still receive the next edition.  In this event, my request “will be processed before the next publication date” and I will no longer receive the directory.

I figure the 10 minutes it took for me to opt out will effectively divert about 10 pounds of more a year from the recycling burden of the city and a big ol’ burden off me.

Judy Fesko July 19, 2011 at 12:51 PM
Thanks so much for this info. I just logged in and elected to get 1 book instead of the 6 we currently get! I am thrilled to know this service exists!
kenc July 19, 2011 at 01:29 PM
It took you longer to wirte this blurb then it would have to just put it in your recycling bin and get on with your life. And LSA/YSA is correct, the industry doesn't need to knock down any trees for its paper -- look for yourself: http://www.yptalk.com/archive.cfm?ID=390&CatID=3
Missy Toms July 19, 2011 at 06:15 PM
Thank you for the tip! I opted out of all the directories. The thought that we have to pay to recycle them makes it even sweeter to stop their delivery. I also wanted you to know how much I enjoy your columns. They are entertaining, helpful, and very well written.
Ruth Sholtis-Furyes July 19, 2011 at 08:16 PM
Thanks! I cringe everytime these stupid books show up. What a waste of resources. I much rather opt out that just recycle. Phone books are a dinosaur.
Peter Grossetti July 19, 2011 at 08:31 PM


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