What is PSI doing on Phone Books?

The Product Stewardship Institute (PSI) is currently providing technical support to state and local governments introducing phone book legislation that would require directory publishers to provide transparency and oversight of opt-out programs that the industry’s voluntary program currently lacks. PSI has created model phone book legislation and launched phone book opt-out pilot projects in several communities. This model legislation assisted the cities of Seattle and San Francisco to pass first in the nation phone book legislation and is facilitating the introduction of legislation in other jurisdictions as well. To help raise awareness, PSI also created a 30-second video highlighting the environmental impacts of phone books. Click here to take action against unwanted phone books.

PSI is also working with Catalog Choice on an opt-out pilot project targeting the communities of Cambridge and Brookline, Massachusetts.

National Phone Books Dialogue

In the spring of 2006, PSI was asked by several state and local government officials to develop a national solution to issues related to the management of phone books. Led by King County (Washington) and the National Waste Prevention Coalition, PSI successfully leveraged funding from over 10 federal, state, and local government agencies and began work on this issue in July 2006.

As a first step, PSI conducted background research, which included interviewing telephone company representatives, phone book distributors, recyclers, government agencies, and other key stakeholders. PSI then developed an initial Project Summary that served as a technique to gain the participation of all stakeholders. Research and interviews were then used to develop a Product Stewardship Action Plan for Phone Books, which served as the cornerstone for two face-to-face meetings with key stakeholders. The Action Plan includes an issue statement, dialogue goals, key issues, and potential solutions. The initial project goal was to develop a collaborative agreement to minimize the environmental impact of directory production and distribution. Following the second meeting, representatives from the two major industry trade associations issued Joint Environmental Guidelines including a voluntary pledge by individual publishers to address the following key issues:

  • Opt-out (subscribers can request that phone book delivery be stopped).
  • Environmental production components (e.g., use of recycled content, soy inks, etc.).
  • Recycling best practices.

On behalf of government officials engaged in the national phone book dialogue, PSI issued a January 23, 2008 letter in response to the Local Search Association (formerly the Yellow Pages Association) and Association of Director Publishers Environmental Guidelines, stating that in order to hold off on advocating for legislation, a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) would have to be agreed upon and include best management practices (BMPs), independent verification of the opt-out, a plan describing how the opt-out will be implemented and promoted, and recycling performance goals. Directory publishers responded by developing their own opt-out program that did not meet the requirements of government officials.

In February 2011, in response to requests from PSI and its coalition, the LSA launched an updated version of its Yellow Pages opt-out site. This site provides consumers with a convenient method of opting-out of receiving phone directories. Although the site is vastly improved over the previous version, it lacks the accountability, transparency, and oversight of the Seattle and San Francisco registries. PSI continues to work to ensure that these elements are strengthened for all residents and businesses. Since directory publishers have vigorously resisted these changes, PSI has supported its state and local members to introduce legislation. PSI worked with government experts, advocates, and others to develop model legislation that includes a menu of options for states to choose from based on their own circumstances. PSI provides technical support to state and local governments interested in introducing phone books legislation.

Stakeholder Meetings and Calls

PSI has held two national Phone Book Dialogue Meetings and continues to hold conference calls on the phone books issue area with state and local government officials and other stakeholders. The first dialog meeting was convened in Raleigh, North Carolina in June 2007 and focused on defining the key issues associated with phone book production and distribution including unwanted phone books, the environmental impact of phone book production, recycling of directories, alternatives to printed directories, and sustainable financing. The second Phone Book Dialogue Meeting was held in Seattle, Washington in February 2007. The goal of the meeting was to develop an agreement on potential collaborative strategies to minimize the environmental impact of directory production and distribution and identified the opt-out of directories, environmental production components, recycling best practices as the three key components for future discussions.

Projects and Initiatives

Since April 2011, PSI has been working with Catalog Choice on an opt-out pilot project in Brookline and Cambridge, Massachusetts to test outreach strategies and best practices related to this transparent, voluntary opt-out service for phone books and unwanted mail. This project is supported by a Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection grant. The project provides residents with the opportunity to stop the delivery of unwanted phone books, catalogs, coupons, and credit card solicitations. It will also measure the number of requests and program efficiency. PSI will issue a project report in the fall of 2012. This dual-community effort is part of a U.S. campaign aimed at slashing wasteful uses of paper, packaging, and other natural resources; reducing product impacts; saving taxpayer dollars; and honoring consumer choice.

Get Involved

For more information, contact Karen Shapiro at Karen@productstewardship.us, or (617) 236-4853.

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