Most Americans Don't Use, Recycle, or Want the White Pages

New survey findings are released; WhitePages and its Ban The Phone Book initiative announces $10,000 research grant to examine the environmental and economic impact of printing, distributing and disposing of the phone book.

WhitePages.com and its Ban the Phone Book initiative announced the results from a December online survey conducted on its behalf by Harris Interactive. The survey shows that:

  • nearly 7 out of 10 American adults rarely or never use the white pages phone book for looking up phone numbers and addresses for people or businesses,
  • 87 percent support opt-in initiatives where they would receive the phone book only if requested, and
  • 60 percent of online adults find the contact information they need through online channels (online directories, 29 percent; search engines, 28 percent, or social networks, 3 percent).

The survey also discovered that only 22 percent of adults recycle their white pages phone books, which supports Ban the Phone Book’s estimate that 165,000 tons of white pages phone books end up in landfills every year. Ban the Phone Book’s current research also estimates that 5 million trees are needed per year to publish white pages phone books and that up to $17 million in annual taxpayer money is used to fund recycling fees.

To further research the environmental impact and taxpayer costs of producing phone books, WhitePages is announcing a $10,000 research grant for one student at an accredited university. With the grant, Ban the Phone Book aims to capture timely and accurate research that provides greater environmental and economic details about the production, distribution, and disposal of white pages phone books. Ban the Phone Book will then effectively share those findings with appropriate constituents ─ citizens, policymakers, telephone companies, and academic communities to help them make informed decisions about existing phone book policies.

“The white pages phone book opt-in movement has made significant headway over the last year on a nationwide level, but even as recent as December of last year the Maryland Public Service Commission denied Verizon’s request to stop distributing residential white pages,” said Alex Algard, CEO of WhitePages. “Sometimes people need to see hard numbers before they re-think the status quo, especially when you’re talking about a 132-year-old habit to kick. WhitePages alone handled nearly 800 million online searches for people last year and that doesn’t include millions who use Google, 411.com and other free alternatives for people search. It’s time to move away from paper and into the 21st century. ”

Many state laws exist that require telephone companies to print and distribute a phone book to every landline customer, even for the same household that has multiple numbers. According to the Washington Post, Verizon and AT&T are the nation's two dominant landline carriers. Verizon has successfully secured permission from regulators to stop automatically delivering the residential white pages statewide in Florida, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, and Virginia. AT&T did the same across counties in Texas, Missouri, and Wisconsin. Since 2007, states that have granted permission, either statewide or across certain counties, to quit printing residential listings or that have requests pending include: Alabama, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia, and Wisconsin. Verizon plans to seek regulatory approval in all 12 states where it operates landline telephone service, which the company estimates would save 17,000 tons of paper throughout its service areas.

Algard continued, “A year ago, our own survey revealed that 81 percent were ready to embrace opt-in and the current survey reveals that we’re at 87 percent. We’ve had 50,000 people sign our petition to Ban the Phone Book who aren’t asking to eliminate the phone book altogether, but to just stop automatically delivering it. We are hopeful that with hard research, we can help this movement progress even further in 2011.”

This survey was conducted online within the United States by Harris Interactive on behalf of WhitePages from December 7-9, 2010 among 2,257 adults ages 18 and older. This online survey is not based on a probability sample and therefore no estimate of theoretical sampling error can be calculated.

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