Just about everyone has a Yellow Pages in their country. These tomes
are usually huge and given the availability these days of online
versions, are pretty much just paper spam to many they are forced upon.
The North American Yellow Pages print distribution is around
540 million directories annually. That's substantially more copies than
the entire population! Why? Up until recently, everyone with a landline
received a copy; but with a switch to mobile communications, the YP
marketing boffins figured that some folks were missing out, so they
engaged in a saturation distribution campaign according to
While countries such as Australia recycle up
to 70% of each Yellow Pages run, which is great, the remaining 30%
still represents millions of copies and what is recycled does nothing
towards the costs, energy, emissions and other pollutants involved in
creating that paper in the first place.
Imagine how many
trees, how much ink must go into creating these large books! Imagine
the transport costs of shifting all these books around the country!
According to Yellow Pages Goes Green, in the USA alone the 540 million directories represents:
- 19 million trees to provide the paper
- 1.6 billion pounds of paper wastage
- 7.2 million barrels of oil (not including delivery)
- 268,000 cubic yards of landfill
- 3.2 billion kilowatt hours of electricity consumption
I'm a little confused on the tree issue as the Yellow Pages Group
states it uses a blend of post-consumer fibre content and
thermo-mechanical pulp made from wood chips. Regardless, there's still
a lot of energy and resources involved in producing these often massive
I worked for a printer churning out the Yellow
Pages years ago and the amount of waste involved was startling -
multiple dumpsters were filled each 24 hours during the print run - and
that edition just covered a reasonably small area. However, it was
encouraging to see on the Yellow Pages Group site that they are taking
steps towards reducing this sort of waste.
An ad in the Yellow
Pages is incredibly expensive, running into the tens of thousands of
dollars. I feel the Yellow Pages paper versions are trading on their
old reputation when they were indeed the go-to source for business
information. They aren't keen to let go as the industry is valued at
more than US$31 billion worldwide, with the vast majority of that
figure coming from paper-based directory ad sales.
Pages may be a very useful tool, but the Internet has changed the way
most of us access it. They are delivered to hundreds of millions of
homes globally, but how many people actually use them these days?
I'm sure some people would wish to continue receiving the paper
version, there really needs to be an *easy* way for consumers to stop
Canceling Yellow Pages delivery
I can't remember the last time we used a Yellow Pages, so I set about trying to find out how to opt out of receiving it.
I noticed no mention whatsoever of opt out processes on the Yellow Pages Group environmental commitment page; yet this is a major step they could take in reducing their impact.
There's no direct opt-out for the USA, UK, Australia and Canada that I could find, so it seems the best bet is via Paperless Petition, which covers all these countries.
petition challenges the Yellow Pages Association (YPA) to move to a
strictly on-demand system of directory distribution and in the interim,
acts as an opt-out registry that the YPA supposedly must respect.
Folks in the USA may want to hedge their bets by also signing up at Yellow Pages Go Green
Recycling Yellow Pages
recycling a Yellow Pages directory is as easy as hoiking it into your
recycling bin in most countries these days; however you should check
with your local recycling authority first.
Uses for Yellow Pages
If you can't throw your Yellow Pages into a recycling bin, here's a few ideas for reusing it.
- Packing material
- Shredded, wet, then compressed into bricks for wood fires
- Paper mache crafts
- Useful as food for a worm farm
- Bird cage liners and general pet cleanup chores
- Wet and mold into biodegradable seedling pots
in regards to using your Yellow Pages for composting and worm feed, you
should probably check with your local YP publisher to ensure the ink
used is vegetable/soy/water based.
Given the size and weight of
these books, I'd hazard a guess that with a little (earth friendly)
fire retardant and sealer added, they could also be used as bricks for
building a house :).
If you have any more suggestions for reusing yellow page, please add them below!
feel it's way past time that the Yellow Pages Association phased out
the saturation distribution of the paper based directory. Sure, it's a
lot of money to miss out on, but by refocusing resources on marketing
and improving their online services, I'm sure the agencies involved
could make up the difference. This would show a *real* environmental
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