Online directory 192.com has today relaunched its 'Say no to Phone books' campaign. The company is now calling for a central opt-in scheme for 'weightiest junk mail of all'.
192.com has not only given its website a facelift and joined forces with two reputable partners - the environmental charity Global Action Plan and Hammersmith and Fulham Council in London, it has also changed strategy. When the campaign first started in early 2008 it called for an opt-out system for telephone books. But with waste high on the political agenda and an ever-decreasing demand for paper directories, the company feels the time is right to go a step further and demand an opt-in system, whereby householders only receive a phone book if they request one.
As a provider of online directory services, 192.com obviously has a vested interest in killing off the phone book, but the company maintains that there are valid environmental reasons for cutting down on the 25 million phonebooks that are delivered annually to homes and businesses in the UK.
Dominic Blackburn, product director for 192.com, said that limiting the number of phone books distributed each year would simply bring the sector into line with the government's wider efforts to tackle junk mail: "The government long ago legislated against the delivery of unwanted junk mail, but has chosen to turn a blind eye to the weightiest junk mail of all," he said. "Reducing waste is one of the simplest things we can do to protect the environment."
His comments were echoed by Trewin Restorick, chief executive of Global Action Plan, who argued that the continued use of the phone book was evidence of a wider reluctance to reduce waste levels by embracing online systems. Mr Restorick said: "We need to wake up to the fact that new technologies mean we can create less waste by doing more things online. There is no need for everybody in the UK to receive a phone book and people should be given the choice of whether or not they receive books."
Curbing distribution of phone books could also have benefits for council tax payers, according to Councillor Greg Smith, cabinet member for crime and street scene for the London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham. "It costs taxpayers more than £22,700 a year to pay for the clear-up of the waste created by phone books in our borough," he said. "We are encouraging all of our residents to recycle, so it is only fair that we make sure they are not sent huge books that they simply do not want."
People supporting the campaign are encouraged to sign 192.com's petition and to opt out of receiving telephone books by calling BT on 0800 833400 (choose option 5 and then option 1), or via the website junkbuster.org.uk.