Curse You, Yellowpages

Let’s stop the annual delivery of a waste of paper that nobody uses.

Few things fill me with as much yuppie rage as the sight of a brand new stack of phonebooks sitting on my front porch. Sure, I should just recycle it. And I did! But I'm still mad. Here's why:

1. I don't even live in Brookline, Brighton, or Chestnut Hill,  yet I'm getting their lousy phonebook.

2. I don't have a Verizon landline—or, for that matter, a Comcast one—and as far as I know, nobody in my triple-decker does, either. I never asked for this product, don't want it, and yet it's now become my property. I'm the proud owner of a three-pound piece of garbage.

3. Phonebooks are an absurd waste of paper. Annually, an estimated 5 million trees are turned just into white pages directories. (And yes, this is coming from a guy who works for a magazine. But people actually pay to receive our product—we don't just mail it to everyone with a mailbox.)

4. Not nearly enough people recycle them: According to a 2011 study, it's just 22 percent. The rest end up in landfills—or, as Universal Hub points out, just rotting in snowbanks.

5. Barely anyone uses the phonebook anymore, because we have the Internet! That same study showed that around seven out of 10 people rarely or never use the white pages. I bet it's even lower now that smart phone adoption is on the rise.

6. The phone companies, for the most part, don't even want to print the whitepages anymore, but 70 percent of states require the companies to distribute them. (The Yellow Pages, on the other hand, are supported by advertising and a strong lobby, and challenge any attempt to ban them—including proposals in Boston and Cambridge. The Yellow Pages, in fact, was able to overturn a Seattle ban by taking it to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.)

What's to be done? Well, recycling the damn things is the first step, so they don't end up in a landfill. Signing up to opt out of the Yellow Pages is the second step, although I'm highly skeptical that's going to stop deliveries. And third, can we get a city councilor or state representative to present a bill banning the automatic delivery of phonebooks—or, at the very least, make it an opt-in procedure?

  • Wesley Young

    Hi Patrick. I work for the Local Search Association, which represents Yellow Pages and local search companies. We manage the consumer choice website at referenced in this article. I can assure you that Yellow Page publishers are honoring the requests they receive through the site.

    We’re proud of our industry’s environmental efforts. From 2007-2012, we reduced paper usage by 50% thanks to smaller directories, more efficient manufacturing and other factors. The paper we use is made from recycled material and the lumber industry’s leftover wood chips and waste wood that would otherwise go to landfills. The EPA’s last estimate in 2009 was that directories accounted for less than 0.3% of the municipal solid waste stream and has since stopped measuring their impact because it is now such a small number. The EPA also says that more than 71% of paper used in directories, newspapers and similar products is being recycled, and we are teaming up with Keep America Beautiful and other organizations to improve those results.

    Research shows that many U.S. adults use the print Yellow Pages to support local businesses, which is why more than 3 million local businesses continue to advertise in them. But we support consumer choice, so if you are not using the print directories, please opt out at and tell your friends too. For those who prefer the internet, our members offer online Yellow Pages and mobile apps. Thanks. Wesley Young

  • kenc

    Several of your facts are totally incorrect, but let me note the three worst ones:

    #3: 500 million trees lost: Completely false. Not a single tree is cut down for print yellow pages. Recycled paper, wood chips, and other residual are used – go here to see how the industry’s paper is really made:

    #4: rest end up in landfills: Again, totally false. The EPA (not me) says less than 1% of all municipal waste if from directories —

    #5: Barely anyone uses the phonebook anymore: Not true. If that was the case how would call tracked ads have a 15% INCREASE in call YOY last year???

    It just goes to show, you need to do some more homework before you believe what you are reading on the Internet….

  • Mike Miller

    I've been fighting with the YP ad rep. She says…no pay, no listing on the YP internet. Just checked with others I know. They have a business phone…it generates a free one line white page listing and a free one line yellow page listing. They pay for nothing else. Just looked on the YP internet listings and their name shows up, just like mine. So I pay $50/month…they pay nothing…and our businesses show up equally on the YP internet…mine may be a little bolder, but size and info equal. I will not pay extra this year….ahhhh! Freedom!!!! May just buy a personal gun with the savings….ahhhh! Freedom!!!!