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Eight Points About PSI’s Phone Directory Sustainability Report

Telephone directory publishers have taken steps to improve the recycling and sustainability of their products, but they continue to fall short based on certain measures, according to a new report from the Product Stewardship Institute (PSI).

But Chaz Miller, director of policy/advocacy for the National Waste & Recycling Association (NWRA), says in an interview that he believes the Boston-based producer responsibility association hasn’t made a strong enough argument regarding the extent that the directories are an issue.

Here are some highlights about PSI report, as well as reaction.

  1. The association’s report card measured 13 publishers of directories against three categories of sustainability: supporting recycling programs; using sustainable paper and ink; and easy access to opt-out programs. Seven of the 13 publishers received grades of D+ or lower, and only four earned grades of B- or higher.
  2. The Berry Co. and Names and Numbers provide financial support for community recycling infrastructure. Dex Media, Local Edge and Hagadone Directories claim to use 40 percent or higher recycled content paper. All 13 publishers allow residents to opt out of receiving directories.
  3. Seven publishers claimed they used recycled-content paper, but four specify a percentage. Three publishers use paper from “sustainably managed forests,” but none identify a specific certification program.
  4. Miller points out that there is very little tangible numbers on the product. “Clearly you need some real data on the amount of directories and what the recovery rate is. … PSI is not happy with what the industry has done. I don’t think the PSI has made a convincing case that these are causing a problem.”
  5. And he points out that the directories do still have a place. “They’re absolutely invaluable for the white paper aspect. It’s still very hard to get residential phone numbers online. … Directories have a tough road to hoe. They’re dealing with a product that in some aspects has been displaced by the Internet. They’re trying to stay afloat. They’re trying to deliver information people can use. It’s a little imperious for PSI to say ‘it’s my way or highway.’”
  6. The 2015 report card was compiled from publishers’ websites, phone calls and e-mails to industry representatives, print directories and the Local Search Association’s (LSA) 2014 Sustainability Report. Only two of the 13 publishers responded to PSI’s requests for information, and both of those referred PSI to the LSA.
  7. In its initial phone directory sustainability guide in 2014, PSI graded 15 publishers, and nine of them received a grade of F. Only one firm, The Berry Co., received higher than a C, with a B-.
  8. From Scott Cassel, CEO and founder of PSI: “PSI applauds those phone book publishers who took the initiative to improve their sustainability practices. Unfortunately, many publishers have not lived up to their corporate social responsibility to reduce paper waste by fulfilling all opt-out requests, using recycled-content paper, and contributing financially to recycling programs, all of which would decrease greenhouse gas emissions that impact climate change.”
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