British Columbia

Residents demand companies end unwanted phone book deliveries

About 1.6 million yellow telephone books are making their way to the doorsteps of Lower Mainland residences this month, prompting concerns from people who think the thick books are a waste of natural resources.

About 1.6 million yellow telephone books are making their way to the doorsteps of Lower Mainland residences this month, prompting concerns the annual delivery of the thick books is a waste of paper and other resources.

Jonathon Narvey was tired of seeing stacks of directories sitting unused in his apartment lobby, so he went online to share his gripe with others and started a Facebook group called "The Yellow Pages must be stopped."

"I understand they are recyclable, and I understand they're made from recycled products, but the energy that goes into making a product that very few people want just seems to me a huge waste of resources," Narvey told CBC News.

Now that the listings in the books are published online where most people can easily access them, Narvey wants to see providers change their distribution so people would have to request a book to get the printed version.

2 companies making changes

Most residents will receive two of the large yellow directories this year from two competing companies, and both say they are making changes to help residents stop unwanted deliveries.

Canpages marketing director Michael Oldewening said a feedback form was included with its books this week.

"In this year's Vancouver directory, we have a feedback page that's new, and it's actually probably the first directory in Canada to do it, where we let people know they can opt out of receiving the directory next year," said Oldewening.

The program has yet to catch on, however. So far, out of about 800,000 recipients in Metro Vancouver, only about 50 people have asked not to receive the books, he said.

The Yellow Pages Group, which publishes the competing phone book, said it's starting a similar program this year to let Canadians opt out of receiving its version of the directory.

"We expect it to happen in [2009]. We're currently working on it, and we'll make the announcements as soon as that is available," said Paul Batchelor, the Yellow Pages Group vice-president of sales for the western region.

Iconic books still used?

Despite the concerns of some, Batchelor says the iconic yellow books are still popular with most households.

"About two-thirds of the population still use the printed product on a regular basis," said Batchelor.

Not everyone agrees. A few weeks ago, more than 50 phone books arrived in the lobby of Randy Helten's condominium building in Vancouver's West End.

"Here we are after two weeks, and more than 80 per cent of them are still here on the floor," Helten told CBC News.

Rather than wait for the companies to stop delivery next year, for the second year in row he's asking the companies that delivered them to take them back.

"We only used our phone book once or so last year … and even then we could have used the internet. I think it's time to look at a new model that doesn't waste our forests so much," he said.