Yellow pages distribution legislation signed by Mayor Lee

Legislation sponsored by Board of Supervisors President David Chiu that would prohibit the distribution of unwanted yellow page directories was passed by the Board of Supervisors on May 17 with a near-unanimous vote.

“The Board of Supervisors today overwhelmingly demonstrated that it prioritizes environmental stewardship, consumer choice, and responsible business practices,” said President Chiu. “This legislation reaffirms San Francisco’s nationwide leadership on environmental policy.”

The ordinance, crafted with input from the San Francisco Department of the Environment, recycling contractor Recology, and environmental advocates, would create a three-year pilot program to restrict yellow pages distributors from dropping unsolicited phonebooks on the doorsteps of residents who have not requested or approved of the delivery. The measure does not restrict distributors from delivering residential white page directories, or yellow pages to customers who are at home and physically accept delivery or who give prior approval by phone, by mail or by sticky note left on the door similar to a UPS delivery confirmation.

“The overdistribution of telephone directories results in an unconscionable waste of natural resources, and costs the City over one million dollars every year to process through our refuse system,” said Melanie Nutter, director of the San Francisco Department of the Environment. “Supervisor Chiu’s commonsense legislation will save ratepayer money and bring San Francisco one step closer to its goal of zero waste in 2020.”

A report from the city economist found that the ordinance will have a positive impact on the local economy. Over the course of the three-year pilot project, the report estimates that 115 jobs will be created and that the city’s economy will grow by $12.6 million annually. The effective date of the legislation is set as May 1, 2012 to give the yellow pages industry time to implement it.

“With this first-in-the-nation ordinance, the City has taken a unique approach to limit the delivery of phone books to only residences and businesses that wish to receive them,” said Scott Cassel, executive director of the Product Stewardship Institute.
The Board of Supervisors vote was 9-1, with Supervisor Sean Elsbernd dissenting. The legislation was signed by Mayor Ed Lee two days later, on May 19.