City Hall

Council Plans to Ditch Controversial Yellow-Pages Recycling Fee

By Erica C. Barnett January 31, 2011

This post has been updated with comments from city council member Mike O'Brien.

Later this afternoon, the city council will consider legislation ditching a controversial "advanced recovery fee" on phone-book companies for recycling yellow pages books. That fee, part of Mike O'Brien's legislation allowing people to opt out of phone-book delivery, would have been set at $148 for every ton of books returned to the city for recycling.  The legislation would still establish a 14-cent-per-book fee to pay for setting up the opt-out system.

Three Yellow Pages companies sued the city last year, charging that the fees constitute an unfair restriction on their free speech.

Because the 14-cent fee would be go exclusively toward the cost of setting up the opt-out system, the city attorney's office has reportedly advised O'Brien that it would be more likely to hold up in court. There are also precedents for opt-out systems in other cities. The council could come back and create a recovery fee for other recyclable products in the future that don't include printed matter (and thus don't delve into the thorny issue of free speech).

O'Brien told PubliCola this afternoon that his legislation has three main goals: to "protect citizens' right to privacy---if you live in a building or a house, you have a right to say you can't dump what I perceive as garbage no my front porch"; to reduce waste; and to reduce recycling costs. He confirmed that he plans to propose a separate recycling fee at a later date.

We have a call out to Yellow Pages Association head Neg Norton for the group's response to the changes.
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