Can anything be done about unwanted phone books?

Can anything be done about unwanted phone books? »Play Video
SEATTLE -- You can say "no" to telephone sales calls. You can reduce the amount of junk mail you get.

But what about those unwanted phone books? Can anything be done to stop this waste of paper?

Several times a year, phone books magically appear throughout a neighborhood. Sometimes they're thrown on the ground. Sometimes they're by the mailbox.

"They're up and down the streets on both sides," said Keith, a resident who didn't want to use his last name. "It looks terrible. It's just plain ugly and I'm tired of it."

Keith doesn't use a phone book, and doesn't want the four or five he gets each year.

"It's a complete waste," he continued. "There's over a thousand pages in this book, pages I don't need. There are so many alternatives to this today."

Carl Pedersen feels the same way. He contacted the KOMO 4 Problem Solvers the day his neighborhood in Kent got blanketed with phone books.

"This is a 40 mph road and you see they're sitting about 2 feet off the fog line and the trucks go by and after a while they get scattered and then they start getting torn up and then they go into the ditches," he said.

Pedersen says if he did this, he'd be fined for littering.

And, it takes a lot of paper to make all these books.

"15,000 tons of phone books are distributed in Washington state every year; 660,000 tons last year all over the U.S.," said Tom Watson, with King County.

Watson is King County's recycling guy. He says he gets a lot of complaints about unwanted phone books. Even though the books can be recycled, Watson says more than half of them go into the trash.

He wants directory publishers to give you a way to opt out of getting a phone book.

"It could almost be like the do-not-call list," he said. "It would be the 'Do-not-drop list.' Do not drop the phone book on my front porch."

The companies that publish phone directories say they provide an important service. They also point to the various recycling programs they have in place.

The industry hopes to have a universal opt-out system in place by 2010. By the way, in this year's session of the state Legislature, lawmakers were asked to pass a law that would require an opt-out system. It did not pass.

If you don't want lots of phone books, call the company and tell them you don't want it anymore. They may honor your request -- but don't count on it. They'll certainly know you're unhappy. And let your state lawmakers know you'd like them to do something about this.

Opt Out

The directory publishers listed below make it possible for you to stop receiving their books, but they don’t make it easy. None of the menu options includes “opting-out” of getting our directory. Follow this roadmap and you should get to a customer service representative who can help you.

Verizon: 800-555-4833, press 4, then 5, then 2

DEX: 1-877-243-8339, press 2

Yellow Book: 1-800-929-3556, press 2