Posted by David R. Wetzel, Ph.D.
Ever wonder what to do with all those old phone books?
Earth Day is coming and a good earth day activity is to develop creative uses for these phone books, beyond just recycling or throwing them in the garbage.
Phone books have a myriad of uses such as shredding the pages for use as packing material, compost materials, and booster seats.
Phone Book Facts
Despite the increase of Internet based telephone number directories, the production of phone books is increasing.
Here are some facts to get you thinking about how important it is to recycle or reuse your phone books.
- On average, over 600,000 tons of phone books end up in landfills every year.
- There are enough phone books created each year to measure 106,700 miles when lined up end to end. This means they would circle around the earth about 4.28 times!
- About 80 percent of all U.S. paper mills use some recycled material in their manufacturing service. It is estimated that about 200 mills use ONLY recycled material.
- There are more than 7,000 different titles of yellow pages.
- 540 million telephone directories are distributed each year.
Earth Day Activities
Now that you see the current phone book dilemma, a good earth day activity is to find creative uses for all these unwanted phone books.
If just 500 phone books can be kept out of a land fill we could save between 17 and 31 trees, 7,000 gallons of water, 463 gallons of oil, 587 pounds of air pollution, 3.06 cubic yards of landfill space and 4,077 kilowatt hours of energy according to the American Forest & Paper Association.
Example Activities include:
- Earthworm Bedding – shred the white pages and combine them with dirt, which enriches the soil as the pages decompose to support the earthworm habitat. Do not use the yellow pages, because of the chemicals.
- Mulch – tear the pages out a phone book and lay them about 6 – 8 pages thick on top of the soil in a flower garden or among shrubs. Then cover the pages with a thin layer mulch. The pages will act as shield to prevent grass from growing through the mulch. Also the phone book pages will decompose and enrich the soil over time.
- Booster Seat – use fabric to cover phone books, sealing the seams with fabric glue or needle and thread. This keeps the phone books from sliding around as kids wiggle around on them.
- Packing Material – shred phone book pages for use in packaging instead of using packing peanuts. Shredded phone book pages are biodegradable and packing peanuts are not.
Your Turn – Share your ideas for additional uses of these relics of the past.
Additional Resources for Earth Day 2010