• BREAKING NEWS ABC shows live and on-demand -- Download the WATCH ABC app!

Calif. to lose white-page phone directories?

February 2, 2010 12:00:00 AM PST
You may not see white-pages telephone listings books showing up on your front porch much longer. A state lawmaker would like to get rid of the practice of delivering the advertising directories to homes for environmental reasons.Tech-savvy Californians aren't using the white pages as much as previous generations did. Some surveys show only 4 percent of Californians look up numbers the old-fashioned way.

"When you have technology now for getting at that information, you start scratching your head, wondering 'Why are we still doing this?'" said state Senator Leland Yee (D-San Francisco).

Yee has introduced a bill that would reverse the law requiring the phone companies to automatically deliver the white pages to people's homes. Customers would have to "opt in" to receive it.

The goal is to be more environmentally friendly. More than a million trees are cut down for the directories, one-third of that for white pages alone.

"This just represents a waste of paper, a waste of resources and ultimately a waste in our landfill; only 20 percent get recycled," said Mark Murray, executive director of Californians Against Waste.

Cash-strapped local governments end up bearing the costs of disposing the rest.

The phone-book industry opposes the restrictions. The Yellow Pages Association says the books are used 14.5 billion times a year across the country.

Some of that is for residential look-ups, and you don't have to look farther than a seniors center to find folks who want their white pages to keep coming.

"I am still going to use the telephone book to look up a number. I'm still going to a dictionary to look up a word," said Bubbles Miguel. "I am coming, kicking and screaming into the computer age."

"I use it all the time. I would say several times a week," said Christine Hardiman.

Committee hearings begin next month and California could soon follow in the footsteps of Cleveland and Miami.