The phone book problem

Reader Alisa sent us the following question:

How do you stop phone books from showing up at your door? I don’t need a new phone book every year. I hardly use the one I have. What a waste of paper!

Oh, Alisa, I understand your frustration. Just last week I picked up one of the three delivered to my home in a year and tossed it straight into the recycling bin.

Unfortunately, I have no good news for you. Despite all of my efforts over the past couple years, I have been unsuccessful at getting any of the three to stop bringing them to me. I have called customer service agents at the publishing companies, been told that I have been removed from a list, only to find it delivered again 12 months later. In all cases, the phone books are thrown onto our front porch by a person in a van who has no distribution list. Everyone gets one. Period.

There are a number of petition sites online that promise to pass your loathing along to the publishing companies that produce these books, but most of them appear to be ways to obtain your e-mail address for spamming purposes. So, I have no hope to offer you.

I want to open up the comments, however, to our readership who may have some sort of special knowledge about how to get off the lists. Or, maybe our readers have fantastic ideas for what to do with the pages to not make it a complete travesty of wasted paper. Let us know what you know in the comments!

81 Comments for “The phone book problem”

  1. posted by Courtney on

    This website will take care of getting you off the lists:

  2. posted by lucille on

    This won’t get you off their lists but it might make you feel better. Find out where they are distributing the books out of in your town. Take said phone book back and toss it on their front door step.

  3. posted by James on

    We too have VOIP service, but continue to receive phone books from AT&T and Verizon (our VOIP is not provided by either), not to mention all the community phone books we receive.

    Last year, I simply returned my phonebook to my local AT&T and Verizon store. Just walked it in, and left it at the customer service desk. When asked what I was doing, I said I was returning this as I didn’t ask for it. If enough people start doing this, perhaps the local stores will get the message. I like the idea of setting a date where there is a unified “return the book” event :)

  4. posted by Becca on

    what about something like this?

  5. posted by judi on

    I’m in that segment over 65 that likes a phone book and uses one. Especially the white pages to check addresses when I’m sending a birthday or get well card to a friend in town. The yellow pages do have useful maps and diagrams of local concert halls, etc. The coupons in the back are useful, too. My problem is that I cannot get the marketing office from ATT&T to let me order a white pages for my metro area this year. They just adopted an “opt in” delivery but there is no way to opt in. Yes, I use the Internet and I use online directories, but nothing quite replaces a phone book. It came in handy two years ago when I needed to practice my physical therapy for knee surgery, too. When new ones are delivered I recycle the old one. It’s not that big a deal.

  6. posted by Chris on

    In Ireland there is a way to get off the list for the phonebooks as was set out in this blog post


  7. posted by Melissa on

    If you live in a large metro area, consider selling the phone book on eBay. Seriously. Sales people from other parts of the country need phone books and to purchase one often costs them $50 from the phone company. I’ve done this many times with the Omaha phone book.

  8. posted by Canny Granny on

    I just put mine in the recycle bin. It gets cleared each fortnight – phone books are recycled to make cat litter where I live

  9. posted by Just ME on

    I am awfully tempted to start a facebook group on returning your phone books. I think returning them is a good idea and will send a message if done en mass.

  10. Avatar of Erin Doland

    posted by Erin Doland on

    I have had zero success with the yellow pages link listed above. Our neighborhood receives three books a year and none of them are yellow pages brand. Additionally, to sign upto opt out you have to provide information about yourself that is then data mined for their online services. For the majority of people, the service will be ineffective.

  11. posted by Celeste on

    Recycle. I can NOT be bothered trying to find alternative uses for something that never even served a purpose to me.

  12. posted by Annalea on

    I’ve read that they make great toilet paper in a pinch. So, stack ‘em somewhere, and use them to barter when the world falls apart (as all of the worried crowd say will happen any day now ;o).

  13. posted by Martina on

    In Germany, the problem is handled like this: Everybody gets a postcard from the phone company that the new phone books are available. Those who don’t want one can just throw the card away. Those who do want one can pick one up – they are avialable for free in large stacks at many gas stations, post offices etc., usually not far from people. Something similar should be possible in the US, maybe cooperating with the large grocery stores and gas stations. Everybody has got to get gas or groceries once in a while, after all. After some years of doing this the phone companies should be able to learn how many books are actually wanted in what areas, so in the long run they might be able to save. Distribution costs should also drop, so there is something in this system for the phone companies, too.

  14. posted by Shiela on

    I use mine (we get 3) to stack on a chair for my grandson who is 2 to sit on when eating at the dining room table.

    Then we just recycle the old ones when new ones arrive.

    I like the idea of taking them to businesses and schools. And I do use them for packing as well.

    I am not quite 65 but I understand the generational philosophy behind using the phone book and not using the phone book.

    It makes a great door stop! What about using the pages for mulch?!

  15. posted by l3j on

    Last year I found a number on or in the Verizon phone book, called them, and got off the list. I didn’t receive one this year, so I believe it worked. Anyone here try calling and asking them not to give you one?

  16. posted by DJ on

    I give them to my rabbits as chew toys, and once they are shredded, I put the paper into our recycling bin, which the city picks up every two weeks.

    When we first moved to this city, we were amazed to received 18 different phone books within two weeks. Eighteen! I mean, gee whiz!

  17. posted by James on

    When we moved to south King County, we received the wrong phone books. When we called, we were provided with the correct ones. So we were responsible for two of the phone books we received. But in the first 13 months, we had received 14 phone books from three or four different companies, none of whom provided us with phone service. I finally took them all and dumped them in the recycling bin when the shelf started to bow. I love the idea, though, of keeping them in the car and delivering them back to the phone company.

    I just don’t see a way to get off the delivery schedule since they contract out to low paid workers who just fill their pickups and drive through the neighborhood hitting everyone.

  18. posted by Thom on

    I’m Australian and there are some good recycling options here, but the German system sounds the most sensible to me!

    Apart from a very slim local area yellow/white pages (half an inch thick, just my suburb and the surrounding ones) I haven’t looked at a phone book for years – not at work, not at home. The local one is handy for its maps and some local services – I might consult it once or twice a year.

    But this post has prompted me to go count the big two-volume sets (I live in a big capital city) that I have, still unwrapped: Two sets of yellow pages and two sets of white pages.

    Why do I keep them? I rent, so the most recent sets are stashed in the bottom of the closet. When I happen to move out they’re there as a courtesy for the next tenant. And the older sets? Each two-volume set is about 3.5 inches (9 cm) thick unwrapped and they make a very nice footrest for when I’m working at my desk. By the time my feet have shredded the plastic covering on both sides of the package then it’s time to bung it in the recycling and bring out the next set.

  19. posted by Jessica on

    Many schools and churches have bins outside for recycling and use this as a way to earn extra money. Why not drive by and recycle your yellow books there?

  20. posted by Robin L. on

    I got rid of the landline and went to cell phone only. The phone books stopped arriving, too, making it a double whammy against clutter. I got rid of all the old phones and the phone books!

  21. posted by verily on

    I wish the phonebooks would stop arriving. We haven’t had a landline in years, but I still seem to get new phonebooks 3 or 4 times a year.

    I tried the recycling bin outside the church and it specifically said “No phonebooks”. I was flabbergasted. Isn’t it just paper??

  22. posted by Maggie on

    Germany has the right idea, but I like all the suggestions for alternative uses. Here’s another one recommended to my 9 year old for anger management: tear the phone book in half. Once, when extremely angry, I heard her yell from her bedroom “I need ANOTHER phone book!”

  23. posted by Alex Ireland on

    Consumers can “opt out” of receiving telephone books at They will contact the publishers and inform them to stop delivering books. This is a free service for consumers. is working with state and local governments on ordinances concerning the delivery of unsolicited telephone books. is not against the telephone books but against the delivery of 4 to 5 pounds of paper on people’s door step 5 to 6 times per year and being told it is our responsibility to recycle something we did not ask for. If we need a book we will call. Otherwise I “opt out” from receiving it.

  24. posted by Inki on

    I like the German system too, sounds like a great way to save paper! Here in Norway, we have an opt-out system where you can register your name and address online with the phone company (we only have one) if you don’t want the book, and you get a reminder notice a couple weeks before they would be distributed to make sure your name is properly marked on the door so they won’t deliver it to you by mistake. I would prefer an opt-in system, though, since I’m sure a lot of people just don’t bother to opt out even if they don’t want the book.

  25. posted by Lisa on

    I use them to make pressed flowers and when they get too yucky, I recycle them. But shredding them for compost is a good idea too.

  26. posted by Michele on

    I hate seeing those phonebooks (in a plastic bag!) on my porch. They don’t even make it into the house – they go right into recycling.

  27. posted by Idea on

    Put up a sign saying no telephone directories needed.
    Get a life and don’t waste energy bringing them back. Make a list for the people that complain that they don’t get one

  28. posted by Chelsea on

    Ever wanted to make a hollow book? Now’s your chance! Use your old phonebook – most people expect a hollow book to be a classic or textbook…

  29. posted by Sheri on

    I keep one in my van. Last time I called info from my cell phone, it cost me $4! So, I always have the number of the restaurant where I want to call ahead and order dinner. AND a big plus, I can’t look it up while driving, so the kids get extra alphabetization practice. Win/win. Then, we don’t use charcoal lighter (or gas grills), so these are great for lighting the grill when they’re old. Another plus, if it’s breezy, the wind won’t blow away your paper.

  30. posted by nadira on

    Take the unwanted books to a non-profit organization in your area. They don’t have enough. Or take it to a large business you like, or library. There are plenty of places that don’t have enough. Let them recycle the rest.

    I’m one of those people who has to use the internet at the library. I like having phone books to look things up.

    When i moved to Lexington, KY, I wanted to look up people I knew who were in Cincinati. When I called to request one, I was told that it would cost me over $3.00. Wouldn’t it have been great to go to the library and get one for 50 cents because someone in Cincinati had donated theirs?


Comments are closed.