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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
Covers politics.

Keith Ervin
Covers the Eastside.

Andrew Garber
Covers politics and state government from Olympia.

Emily Heffter
Covers local government.

Mike Lindblom
Covers transportation.

Kyung Song
Covers politics and regional issues from Washington, D.C.

Lynn Thompson
Covers Seattle City Hall.

Bob Young
Covers King County and urban affairs.