How to Recycle Old Phone Books

An Overview on Recycling Phone Books

It’s time to order dinner so you pull out the Yellow Pages to look for a local Chinese restaurant. Or perhaps you’re in need of a vacuum cleaner repair shop, and out comes the phone book again. Though the Internet now has numerous resources for finding businesses and people, the production of phone books is not abating, and the environmental stats prove it:

  • Recycling phone books is expensive. In the UK, for instance, it costs £7 million annually to clear away old phone books to the tune of 25 million households with up to three phone books each.[1]
  • In the US, printing Yellow Pages is a $14 billion industry, 97% of which is for the print version.[2]
  • More than 660,000 tons of phone books end up in landfills every year in the US.[3]
  • Producing phone books for Americans costs our environment 19 million trees, 7.2 billion barrels of oil, 3.2 billion kilowatt hours of electricity, and 268,000 cubic yards of solid waste. [4]

Reduce phone book consumption

A  great way to stop the phone book waste is to opt out of receiving your annual phone book delivery.

  • Call your local telephone company and ask them to not send you a phone book this year and every year after. Numbers for this purpose are often found in the front of your phone book, though you can often call their customer service line if you can’t find a number.
  • Search for phone numbers online using one of the many free Internet-based services, such as, SuperPages, Google Local,,, or
  • Use opt-out services for phone books - check out our recycling database which has a variety of services and campaigns that are helping consumers cut their paper waste by opting out of phone book delivery

How phone book recycling works

Though many believe that phone books are not recyclable, this is simply not true! Sometimes the phone book spines contain materials that are not recyclable, but the pages themselves are 100% recyclable. That said, because the short fibers used to make phone books are inferior in quality compared to printer paper, they aren’t as valuable in the paper recycling market.

Phone books that are recycled are used to make other new products, such as new phone books, roofing materials, paper grocery bags, paper towels, insulation materials, organic lawn care products, packing material, and more.

How to recycle old phone books

Those who live in multi-family condo or apartment buildings often can’t opt out of receiving phone books, and sometimes a phone book is necessary where Internet access isn’t available. When you’ve got the need to recycle a phone book or two, follow these steps:

  • Clean it up: When getting your phone books ready for recycling, be sure to remove any contaminants such as magnets and plastics that are included with new phone books.
  • Curbside recycling: Many regular curbside recycling programs now accept phone books with mixed paper waste for recycling. Just check with your local recycling program to see whether it’s possible to include your phone book with your newspapers, printer paper, and cardboard.
  • Drop off recycling: If you’re without a curbside recycling program but you do have drop-off recycling centers for regular recyclables, ask the personnel there is you can bring your phone books with your regular paper waste.
  • Special collection days: In many communities, phone books are only accepted for recycling when the new directories are handed out. If your phone books can’t be recycled with your other mixed paper recycling, watch for these recycling collection days and be sure to get your phone books in for proper recycling.
  • Compost: When all else fails, you can shred your phone book and include it in your compost heap to turn it back into material used for growing new trees! Just be sure to check with the printing company that made the phone book to ensure that they did not use dyes made with heavy metals and other toxins. Safe dyes are soy-based or vegetable-based, making your phone book suitable for your veggie garden.



1  Cancel phone books to tackle climate change say councils. (2010, February 27). Retrieved July 20, 2010,

2 Scrap the Phonebook. (n.d.). Retrieved July 20, 2010, from Paperless Petition:

3 Phone Book Home. (n.d.). Retrieved July 20, 2010, from Product Stewardship Institute:

4  The Environmental Problem of Phone Books--Is There a Solution?(2008, December 31). Retrieved July 20, 2010, from Scientific American:

Stay Connected.
You've been added to our mailing list.
Thank you for signing up!
Like ecolife on Facebook & Google, and join us in the Green movement!