The End of Phone Books?

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Phone books, those dust-collecting doorstops dumped in apartment lobbies and on front porches everywhere, are facing a new challenge more formidable than smartphones: a local movement to wipe them out.

Cleveland is starting a task force charged with finding ways to reduce the waste created by thousands of unwanted phone books, thanks to a resolution introduced Monday by councilman Matt Zone. A registry of the companies distributing the books, restrictions on distribution, and policies for removing unused books will be considered.

“They indiscriminately plop phone books around and litter the city,” says Zone. “You cannot recycle them in the regular waste stream; they require special recycling.”

Cuyahoga County may follow suit. When council member Sunny Simon learned of a proposed phone book ban in San Francisco, she was excited about the prospect of county-wide regulations.

“I think it is great for the environment,” Simon says. “However, it probably makes sense to work with the phone book people to find a reasonable way for them to continue to conduct business.”

Along that line, the Cleveland task force will also study opposition to San Francisco’s proposed ban as well as a ban in effect in Seattle. The Yellow Pages Association (motto: What’s a Google?) claims the bans violate its First Amendment right to jam phone books down the throats of a citizenry that has no use for them.

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