Phone books, still?

It’s that time of year again, when the phone company dumps 8 lbs of dead trees on everyone’s doorstep. I get rankled every time they show up, because:

  1. They’re irrelevant! Does anyone even use phone books any more? For those of us with this new thing called The Internet, there’s a faster way to get richer, more current information. That is, unless I really am looking for the ambulance chaser with the biggest ad budget, or for the phone number of AAAAA Locksmith.
  2. What a waste. 8 lbs × 650,000 households in the Indianapolis area = 2,600 tons of paper consumed. While phone books are (barely) recyclable, and they not printed on virgin paper, this volume of paper represents around 153 trees.
  3. Phone books are unwelcome in common recycling programs. Because Fishers is not forward thinking enough to have a municipal recycling program, citizens must take it upon themselves to find a recycling center willing to accept phone books. For example, the common Abitibi bins that can be found at local churches and schools, explicitly do not want phone books because phone book paper fibers are so fine that their pulp is essentially unusable. Phone books are the end of the road for recyclable paper fibers.
  4. The phone company makes it our problem to dispose of them. I did not ask for a phone book, but I have to pay to dispose of it, because I write a quarterly check to the garbage collection company/recycling service. This is the same situation that caused telemarketing to mobile phone customers to be banned. They’re marketing to me on my dime. The least that phone companies should be doing is collecting outdated phone books themselves, at their cost.
  5. Get off my lawn! Last spring, the bag of phone books was dropped unceremoniously at the base of our mail box, directly atop a patch of daffodils in full bloom. Yesterday, it was dropped at our doorstep, but there were wheel tracks across the front yard from the delivery person traipsing through everyone’s yards. Carpet-bomb marketing like this is disrespectful of people’s property.

This year I noticed a small box on the front cover suggesting a phone number to call for recycling information. I called it, and after typing in my zip code, the robot informed me that I could leave it in my curbside bin (we don’t have such a service) or take it to a collection center. This I found extraordinarily helpful.

My next step was to call the “place an ad” phone number and ask to opt out of phone book delivery. I was immediately transferred to the “do not deliver” department. This is apparently exactly what I wanted. To stop AT&T phone book delivery, call (866) 329‑7118 and ask to be placed on the “do not deliver” list. Specify carefully that you want zero delivery of any books. Budget 10 minutes of your time for this. (Surprise, the phone company wants to keep you on the line and use up your minutes!)

Additionally, Yellow Book is another phone book publisher that delivers to the Fishers area. Yellow Book has a website where you can submit your address to their do not deliver list. Not surprisingly, they try to make it a little more difficult than necessary to select what book you don’t want (remember, a phone book publisher has every incentive to keep sending you books, so that they can quote high circulation numbers to potential advertisers). For Fishers, select “Hamilton County, IN.”

AT&T says that the do not deliver list will be effective for three years. After that, they will call every year to see if maybe you changed your mind.