San Francisco Moves to Ban Yellow Pages

San Francisco Moves to Ban Yellow Pages

In the internet age, are the yellow pages still relevant? In fact, do phone books contribute anything more than massive amounts of waste?

That's a question that San Francisco thinks it has an answer to. (Hint: It's pretty much "no." To both questions.)

The city will continue its environmental initiatives by passing a law that will ban the distribution of phone books unless phone book publishers obtain prior consent from individuals and businesses to drop the books off.

San Francisco Board of Supervisors president David L. Chiu is expected to introduce the legislation today at City Hall. San Francisco Chronicle staff writer Rachel Gordon has a good look at the proposed law in today's paper (another increasingly obsolete technology...).

Gordon writes:

Under the proposal, phone companies and other distributors and publishers of Yellow Pages phone books would be barred from leaving them on doorsteps and in lobbies without receiving advance permission.

The Yellow Page companies could contact consumers by e-mail, direct mail, phone solicitations or in person, asking if they would like the directory. If the response is positive, the phone book could be delivered. Consumers also would be able to pick them up at a distribution center.

Unsolicited deliveries, however, could result in fines of up to $500 for each violation. The law would be enforced by the city's Department of the Environment.

The white pages -- whose general distribution is mandated by state law -- would not be affected. Dual white and Yellow Pages phone books would have to abide by the new restrictions, if they are approved.

The publishers of yellow pages and white pages alike are obviously concerned about the law. When Seattle suggested a similar ban last year, publishers sued the city, citing free speech issues.

Phone books are of course big business for the publishers, which fill the yellow pages with ads for services. But the big books are also responsible for even bigger amounts of waste: The Chronicle's Rachel Gordon cites the Product Stewardship Institute's estimates that local governments spend about $54 million every year to dispose of unwanted phone books, and another $9 million per year to recycle them.

Read the full article in the Chronicle and let us know in the comments below: In the age of Google (or Bing, or Ask, or whatever), when was the last time you used the Yellow Pages?

Photo CC-licensed by How Can I Recycle This?