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October 11, 2010 at 3:05 PM

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Seattle council approves opt-out registry for unwanted yellow pages

Posted by Emily Heffter

The Seattle City Council voted Monday to create a registry for people who want to opt out of receiving yellow-pages type phone books.

Councilmember Mike O'Brien took on unwanted phone books as his first major cause since taking office and -- after 14 versions of the bill and over the loud protests of the yellow-pages industry -- the measure passed 8-1.

O'Brien, a former Sierra Club leader, has said cutting down on unwanted yellow-pages deliveries will help the environment. The city estimates nearly 2 million yellow-pages phone books are dropped off for recycling in Seattle every year, costing about $350,000.

Councilmember Jean Godden opposed the legislation from the beginning because she said it raised free-speech concerns.

The bill will offer city residents a city website to opt out if they don't want to receive yellow pages. (White pages directories are required by law). Distributors will face fines of up to $125 if they deliver unwanted yellow pages.

To pay for the program, phone-book distributors will pay $100 a year for a license, plus a disposal fee of $148 per ton of phone books distributed and 14 cents per book they distribute. They'll have to publish information about the city's opt-out registry on their books' covers.

Yellow-pages lobbyists argued that the council's system is redundant, because companies already offer their own opt-out system. Council members said the new system would be simpler.

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Jim Brunner
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Covers politics and state government from Olympia.

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Lynn Thompson
Covers Seattle City Hall.

Bob Young
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