Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Phone book follies

Amy Stodghill at It's the Environment, Stupid talks about the annual appearance of piles and piles of new phone books:

I happened to be walking in my neighborhood and noticed a few guys frantically running to and from a slow moving budget rental truck. They were distributing stacks upon stacks of brand, spankin' new phone books. No stoop was left behind - every single residential door was graced with updated contact information for the entire borough of Brooklyn.

Now, can you tell me when was the last time you flipped through the yellow pages to look up a phone number?

I understand this is a community service thing or paid advertising or something altruistic - but in our digital age (we'll suspend the e-waste topic for this posting) is this tower of telephone books really necessary? Even though they are made on paper that contains "up to" 40% post-consumer recycled material, what if they weren't printed at all? Or what if half as many were printed?


Good question. Aside from the environmental cost, distributing printed yellow and white tomes to every home and business in Australia must represent a huge cost to their business. Wouldn't you want to reduce that if you could?

In Australia, the phone books are produced by Sensis (a subsidiary of Telstra). They have a phone book opt-out: you can call them on 1800 810 211 and request not to receive one (and I'd encourage you to do so) but that seems a pretty inefficient way to reduce the number of phone books distributed - how many people know about (and will bother) opting out?

I've asked them if they're taking any other measures to reduce the number of phone books they need to produce and distribute and I'll let you know if I receive a response.


Update Thurs 18 Jan:

Sensis has replied - see the comments below.

Some of the measures they take to reduce the number of books are:

  • Splitting of the metropolitan White Pages into Business and Residential volumes, and only delivering the Business section to business customers. If they want a residential section, they can ring up and order one.

  • Reduction of business delivery numbers through asking a representative how many copies they require at the time of delivery.

  • Directories are delivered to secured apartment buildings and calling cards left in each residence’s mail box. If the directories are not collected within 14 days, they are collected by Sensis and re-distributed elsewhere.

  • Refining of print orders based on each year’s distribution figures for each area.
Another point they make is that they are required by the government to deliver a printed directory to every household as one of Telstra's licence conditions. Sure, Telstra should provide phone books to people who need them, but this seems to go way beyond what the community needs.

12 comments:

Andrea said...

I know my phone books just pile up in the cupboard year after year. Generally they don't even get out of their plastic wrapping.

I didn't know you could opt out, thanks for the tip.

Fiona Baxter said...

I am responding to this on behalf of Sensis – sorry it is so long, but I want to make sure all the information is here.

On behalf of Telstra, Sensis publishes listings for almost every Australian business, government organsiation and residence in the Yellow™ and White Pages® print and online directories, as well as through our telephone information services such as Directory Assistance, Call Connect and 1234.

As Australians rely on our products to find the information they need, and they have diverse needs and preferences for how they access this information, Sensis continues to offer people choice between print, online, telephone and wireless.

While a significant and growing number of Australians have internet access, print directories remain the most popular tool for Australians to access directory information. Through our regular research, we know that over 9 million people use the Yellow™ and White Pages® print directory each month, and that 2.5 million people use yellow.com.au and 3.5 million people use whitepages.com.au each month.

It is also important to note that Sensis has an obligation under Telstra’s licence conditions to print and distribute the White Pages® directory to all Australian households and businesses (unless they specifically notify Sensis that they do not want to receive it).

As a major print publisher, Sensis is committed to the responsible environmental management of our print products. This includes their production, end of life disposal, as well as the manner in which we distribute them.

Sensis directory paper is at least 40% post-consumer recycled paper, and up to a further 45% recycled mil waste content. All paper is sourced from certified forestry and paper mill operations.

Initiatives that we have implemented over the past few years to reduce excess directory distribution include:
- Splitting of the metropolitan White Pages® into Business and Residential volumes, and only delivering the Business section to business customers. If they want a residential section, they can ring up an order one.
- Reduction of business delivery numbers through asking a representative how many copies they require at the time of delivery.
- ‘Secured Units’ initiative, where directories are delivered to secured apartment buildings and calling cards left in each residence’s mail box. If the directories are not collected within 14 days, they are collected by our distribution contractor and re-distributed elsewhere.
- Refining of print orders based on each year’s distribution figures for each area.

The Sensis Directory Recycling Program enables old directories to be recycled through council kerbside paper collections at home, and commercial paper recycling collections at work. Australians have embraced this program. In 2005 71% of old directories were recycled. A further 24% were reused for a variety of uses including as an additional spare directory, propping computer monitors and other innovative uses.

Recognising that some people may prefer to access the Yellow™ and White Pages® on the internet or via our telephone services, Sensis offers people the ability to opt out of receiving our print directory products. People can do this by contacting Sensis on 1800 810 211 and following the prompts to Yellow™ or White Pages® and then to Book Orders and Delivery Enquiries.

We will continue to monitor the search and information needs of Australians, and provide them with products that meet these changing needs. I hope this information helps,
Cheers

Fiona Baxter
Group Manager Corporate Responsibility
Sensis Pty. Ltd.

Eco-Critic said...

Ireland suffers from phone book syndrome pretty bad. We seem to get a whole set every few months to the point where I've asked to be taken off the list. Its just absurd and a major waste.


http://ecocritic.blogspot.com/

David Jeffery said...

Thanks for your response Fiona - that's very useful information.

David

Laura said...

rather than an opt out, they should have an opt in.

Caboolture Pine Furniture said...

Hi,

A full page color advert in the Brisbane Yellow Pages costs $20,000 plus Gst for 12 MONTHS !!!. The ads are touted to us (businesess) using circulation as their basis. $$$$$$$$$$$

memtree said...

Just tried the opt-out and we can't do it because our number is silent.

Apparently there's no information on the system for silent numbers so they can't put in the opt-out request.

The guy suggested that when it gets delievered, I can take it to the post office and they can re-distrubute it to another customer.

They don't make these things easy do they? lol!

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