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Belgium bans the book

8th of April 2010

Victory for environmentalists as Europe moves towards an opt-in system for phonebooks

Belgian Minister Vincent Van Quickenborne yesterday announced on Twitter that Belgium would adopt an opt-in system for paper directories.

From 2011, white-pages directories will not be delivered in Belgium unless a consumer requests one.

The development signals a decisive shift away from mass-produced paper directories, which are often unused, putting pressure on land-fill sites, expending severe carbon emissions and wasting water and oil during production and recycling.[*]

The white pages opt-in system in Belgium could save 3,000 tonnes of paper. The UK could spare a staggering 36,900 tonnes of paper and 32,538 metric tonnes of wasted carbon emissions if an opt-in service resulted in a forecasted 41% reduction of people using a printed directory. This is a conservative estimate based on an independent poll of 1000 UK residents, which found that 41% of the survey don't use phonebooks for directory enquiry information anymore.

Belgium's position will heap pressure on the UK's Office of Communications (Ofcom) and other paper directory providers to move with the times. Ofcom regulations currently state that all public telephone providers must supply customers with a printed directory on request, with BT being the only company supplying a white pages directory. Since March 2008, Ofcom say that BT shouldn't be obligated to deliver white pages to requesters, but 192.com say the environmental case for an opt-in system is overwhelming.

Dominic Blackburn, Product Director at 192.com comments, "Britain wants to be a leading low carbon economy, and a nation-wide opt-in system would show we're taking the lead in tackling waste. Belgium's example should prompt other European states to follow suit, and Britain should be at the forefront of that. A Europe-wide opt-in system would be a massive plus for the environment and complement the EU directive to reduce landfill".

"Given the ongoing environmental burden of unused directories and mass public support for an opt-in system, we're calling on Ofcom to take things a step further and say that BT should only deliver white pages directories on request and set up an opt-in system just like Belgium".

Notes to Editors

  1. * Research conducted by Redshift Research between 5th & 7th September 2009 with a randomly selected, nationally representative sample of 1000 interviews with male and female UK panellists.

    The annual production of phonebooks in Britain uses around 62,000 tons of paper; enough electricity to power 59,000 homes for a year. Phonebooks also consume 680,000 barrels of oil, the annual consumption of 67,000 people, and two billion litres of water, enough to fill 800 Olympic swimming pools. From production to recycling, 62,000 tons of phonebooks use 79,360 metric-tonnes of carbon emissions.
Say No To Phonebooks

In the UK, Global Action Plan and 192.com have been running the "Say No To Phone Books" campaign, calling on the British Government to establish an opt-in system for phonebooks. The campaign has attracted over 12,000 signatures on a Downing Street ePetition, the fifth largest response ever for an environmental petition of its kind.

About 192.com

192.com is the UK's most awarded online directory, helping find people, businesses and places for millions of users every month. On 192.com, users can search over 700 million records including free directory enquiries, edited electoral roll information, local business listings, interactive mapping, aerial photography and property reports.

For more information contact the 192.com Press Office.