In 2009, the last year the Environmental Protection Agency has individual data for phone books available, 650,000 tons of directories were introduced into U.S. waste and recycling streams. While phone books are a very small percent of total paper waste, their yearly distribution accounts for a trillion-plus tons of paper.
In order to keep them out of the trash can or blue bin, we recommend getting creative with your perhaps unwanted phone books. Here are some suggestions and examples of what others have done:
- Baltimore-based artist Alex Queral has used X-Acto knives to sculpt dozens of three-dimensional faces from unused phone books, including pop-culture and well known figures like Albert Einstein, Barack Obama and Bob Dylan.
- Because they are recyclable and biodegradable, it's possible to use phone book pages for traditional and worm composting.
- Tearing a phone book in half is an age old party trick. Just Google "rip a phone book" and dozens of YouTube videos will show you how to tackle this feat of strength.
- Since the pages are thin and no one ever suspects a phone book as a hiding place, hollowing out a section of a phone book to store valuables will keep the books out of the trash.
- In case of a complete, global technological blackout, phone books can be used to look up information on local business addresses. But in all seriousness, the back pages of many phone books include handy conversion charts and emergency preparedness tips.