Consumers Spoke and the Message is Clear: Phone Book Publishers Must Take Opt-Out Requests Seriously or Pursue Opt-In Instead

by Megan Byers

Old_Phonebooks_litterAbout a decade ago, at the Product Stewardship Institute (PSI)’s urging, the Local Search Association (which represents phone book publishers) created a website where residents can choose to halt phone book delivery.

In the past year, PSI documented more than 29,000 opt-outs generated through our Phone Book Opt-Out Toolkit, a trove of public outreach materials that makes promoting opt-out as easy as copy-and-paste for governments, environmental organizations, and concerned citizens.

We asked people to rate how easy or difficult it is to opt out on the industry-run opt-out website via an anonymous survey. 74 percent of respondents provided additional feedback to elaborate on their experience. Here’s what we learned:

  1. 69 percent of respondents found the opt-out website “very easy” or “easy” to use.
    PSI commends the industry for creating a website that is easy for many people to use.

 “The site was easy to use and the link easy to share so more people could reduce the number of unwanted phone books! Thanks.”

  1. But over a third of respondents thought the process was too long and confusing. Some even gave up.
    The website does not make it clear from the start that opting out is a multi-step process. Counter intuitively, you have to register to unregister from phone book distribution. Common criticisms include that the opt-out process is too time consuming, the website is not mobile friendly, and it is annoying to create an account. Some respondents said that it would be easier to opt in than opt out, and that it felt like the website was intentionally designed to make people feel uncomfortable and confused, thus preventing completed opt-outs.

“You asked for a lot of information and it was time consuming to have to wait for the email so I could complete the opt out.”

“I gave up because it was so complicated. At some point I needed a password to register.”

  1. One in five respondents who gave additional feedback were wary of giving up personal information like their name, email address, and phone number in addition to their address.
    The opt-out website promises that all information required is used only for verification purposes. Still, some survey respondents were skeptical.

 “I hate giving out my name, personal phone in order to opt out.”

  1. 40 percent of respondents who gave additional feedback reported that it didn’t work – they still got phone books after opting out.
    It is notable that PSI’s survey did not ask about opt-out outcomes (after all, we merely intended to capture feedback about the opt-out process). Nevertheless, many respondents wrote that phone book deliveries continued after opt-out.

 “I opted out – about 5 years ago – yet I continue to get phone books delivered to me (including another one this weekend)! After each incident, I’ve directly emailed my contacts at Local Search Association and reported the unwanted delivery. Each time, they’ve reached out to the specific publisher to “address the issue,” but despite this, I continue to get phone books. Very frustrating. It doesn’t appear to be working due to either publishers not providing their delivery people with opt-out lists or the delivery people just ignoring the lists if they are provided. So 4 years of unwanted deliveries (post-opt-out) and counting…”

PSI applauds the phone book industry for supporting an opt-out website that most people find easy to use. Now, we urge improvements that would make opting out easy, accessible, and comfortable for all. The feedback PSI has gathered is a good place to start.

We fully recognize that delivering directories to some buildings but not others has very real challenges and requires time, effort, investment, technology, and good communication with distributors. But if any other service failed to do what it promised almost half the time, it would quickly be replaced. If the industry’s opt-out system can’t actually honor half of the requests they receive, we must ask: isn’t there a better way?

It is time for the Local Search Association to implement an opt-in system. This way, those who want phone books could easily opt into delivery by signing up online, mailing in a slip, or calling the publisher. Those who don’t use phone books would avoid environmental and economic impacts while keeping their homes clutter-free. Furthermore, local businesses could more accurately assess how to best spend their advertising budget and target their phone book ads to the right audience. To sustain advertising revenue, publishers should expand and improve online offerings to make YellowPages.com the number one stop for consumers in need of local business information.

Phone books should be delivered only to consumers who request them – just like any other product.

Until an opt-in system is available, the best option to stop phone book delivery is to opt out. If you still receive a phone book despite opting out, we encourage you to call both the publisher and Neg Norton, President of the Local Search Association, which runs YellowPagesOptOut.com.

Look in your phone book for a publisher name and find them online, or browse our list of top publishers. Mr. Norton can be reached at (908) 286-2385 or Neg.Norton@localsearchassociation.org.

Questions? Contact PSI’s Megan Byers.

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In Response: The Right Way to Remember Rachel Carson

The Product Stewardship Institute’s Scott Cassel responds to the New Yorker’s March 26th article, The Right Way to Remember Rachel Carson

Jill Lepore’s The Shorebird speaks volumes about Rachel Carson’s love of the Maine intertidal. It also covers her scientific expertise in biology that she parlayed into a job at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, her full body of nature writing (rejections included), and her secret relationship with Dorothy Freeman from whom she got tremendous support for her methodical, sound, and truth to power Silent Spring ode to chemical companies. Lepore paints a picture of Carson as persistent, politically savvy, and a rock solid caregiver for family members whose lives fell into her lap. Carson’s keen observations and love of nature enabled her to amass knowledge she could not disown about DDT and its impact on the ecological chain of life. It is much clearer to me now how Carson’s robust life experiences enabled her to be the one to set the environmental movement on its way. Thanks to The New Yorker for publishing excerpts of Silent Spring when others would not, and for keeping her spirit alive with Lepore’s piece, as the Trump Administration drains beauty from the intertidal swamp.

Announcing the New PSI Logo: a Note from CEO and Founder Scott Cassel

cropped-2018-primary-logo.pngToday, PSI launches its new logo as the next step in the evolution of our brand.

In 2000, PSI became the first national organization to systematically promote the concept of product stewardship in the U.S. The first thing we did, after forming our Board of Directors, was develop a name, tagline, and logo.

The name and tagline were easy. I chose Product Stewardship because it implies all stakeholders have a role to play in reducing product impacts, even if one of those actors – manufacturers – has the greatest responsibility. In 2000, and perhaps still today, the term “product stewardship” invited dialogue, more so than holding one stakeholder solely responsible. We used the word Institute to convey the academic rigor we would use to affect change. And we included a tagline for the times – Sustainable Solutions to Protect Our Environment.

PSI Logo
The original PSI logo

But developing the logo took four long months. That logo lasted us 17 years. Although I must admit the original logo looks a bit like the planet Saturn, it also conveyed a sense of movement and the gathering of ever increasing layers of stakeholders around a central table, amidst a blue/green landscape. Movement, collaboration, action-the essential elements for introducing a new concept like product stewardship.

Alas, a reboot was long overdue. Luckily, we found a talented young designer, Anthony Howard, who led us quickly through a two-month process through which we retained all we liked about the original logo, but incorporated fresh, clean, and modern design elements. We kept our name, the circularity of the dialogue table (or should I say the circular economy table?), and the blue/green color scheme. But we simplified the logo, removing the tagline and multiple shades, and amplified the acronym by which most people now know us. The sharp angles of “PSI” in our new logo represent the continued cutting-edge nature of our work and convey forward progress, as well as the head-on approach needed for change.

As PSI enters its 18th year in business, I feel fortunate to have worked with so many talented staff, board members, advisory council members, industry and organizational partners, and government members – in the U.S. Canada, Europe, and globally. There are now thousands of people in the U.S. who discuss the concepts of product stewardship and EPR openly and actively. These people helped pass many of the nation’s 110 EPR laws on 13 product categories in 31 states, even as we work in equal measure on voluntary programs in states whose political compass is in a non-regulatory direction.

We will be gradually rolling out this logo into all of our materials over the next few months. The branding also sets the stage for our website redesign – one of PSI’s major priorities in 2018. Be on the lookout for great things to come!

 

Let’s Take on Industry Polluter #2
Donate & Recycle
Used Clothes, Footwear, and Other Textiles

The next time you toss a shirt into the trash because it’s time for a fresh one, consider this: the manufacture of clothes, shoes, belts, and accessories – otherwise known as textiles – is the second largest polluting industry in the world after oil and gas. That’s right. Pesticides used to grow cotton, toxics in dyes, and energy-intensive manufacturing create a whopping impact on the environment and public health.

What happens to these products after we no longer want them is just as shocking. Eighty-three percent [1] of used textiles are disposed in the garbage, even though the majority of these items can be donated for reuse and recycling. Even items that are worn and torn can be reused as rags and insulation.

While chemists and technology innovators work to reduce upstream manufacturing impacts, we all can make a huge difference in reducing the number of downstream textiles that become garbage instead of feedstock for new products. We challenge you to donate or recycle all used textiles for reuse and recycling.

The problem, however, is only getting worse, as the consumption of “fast fashion” is projected to jump 63 percent by 2030. [2] In New York State alone, residents dispose of 1.4 billion pounds of clothing and textiles each year, worth over $130 million. Reusing and recycling these products would create up to 1,000 new jobs. [3]

Textiles Summit at the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT)

To address the growing problem of textile waste – upstream AND downstream – the Product Stewardship Institute (PSI), New York Product Stewardship Council (NYPSC), New York State Association for Reduction, Reuse and Recycling (NYSAR3), and New York State Pollution Prevention Institute (NYSP2I) hosted the 2017 New York Textiles Summit at FIT in New York City on October 31st. The event brought together more than 200 textile designers, brand owners, used clothing collectors, recyclers, and government officials to discuss how to bring used textiles back into the circular economy.

The Summit was divided into four parts to represent each phase of consumption from upstream to downstream. Here are a few things we learned:

Session 1: Sustainable Manufacturing and Design
Since waste is created at all stages of the textile manufacturing process, even starting with pattern making, it is critical to bring designers and recyclers together to explore ways to reduce waste at the source and increase the value of post-consumer textiles. Moderator Tricia Carey from Lenzing Fibers emphasized that, although smaller companies might not have large marketing budgets, they are making sizeable strides in sustainable manufacturing on par with larger companies.

Session 2: Collection
Industry leader Eric Stubin from 2ReWear focused on immediate opportunities to collect textiles using existing public and private infrastructure. Panelists discussed how retail stores can be a convenient option for consumers to drop off used textiles. For example, Eileen Fisher Renew recycles 170,000 units of clothing in the U.S. each year, receives over $2 million worth of donated clothing, and creates $10 million in resale value. Patagonia’s Worn Wear program accepts all used Patagonia clothing and offers consumers $20-$100 per item. “More retailers will be forced to collect for reuse because of the cost of virgin materials,” said one panelist.

New York City’s textiles reuse and recycling program needs immediate scalable solutions to manage 200,000 tons of textile waste each year from City residents. One local partner, Goodwill Industries, whose social mission is fueled by revenue from donated clothing, collected nearly 43,000 tons of used textiles from New York and New Jersey alone in 2016. [4] Even with these initiatives, citizens don’t always know what to donate or where to go to do so, which is why PSI, NYPSC, NYSAR3, and NYSP2I facilitated unified Standards for Coalition Participation, a consensus forged among non-profit and for-profit collectors for membership in the Re-Clothe NY Textiles Coalition. To educate consumers, one participant suggested that all clothing labels include a unified message: “wear-donate-recycle.”

Session 3: Markets
In this panel, major New York collectors discussed domestic and global markets for post-consumer textile material. Cyntex’s Scott Cynamon, panel moderator, emphasized that the value of secondhand textiles is much higher than other commodities, and clothing markets tend to stay relatively constant while other markets fluctuate. In order to take advantage of these markets, however, we need a shared vision among a diverse stakeholder base, including manufacturers and retailers, to increase the amount of textile material collected. Overcoming consumer perception of “second hand” as inferior is a critical first step. There are 3.8 billion pounds of used textiles that enter the North American market each year, and only 1-2 percent of these clothes are high-end brands for resale. Although existing markets exist for 95 percent of used textiles, most is disposed. “Our biggest competitor is the landfill,” said one processor. Another challenge is that secondary textile materials compete globally with low-cost new products produced in China and India.

Session 4: The Circular Economy and Innovative Recycling Technologies
Moderator Tasha Lewis of Cornell University promoted accessible technologies that can transform post-consumer textile waste into a raw material substitute. Stacy Flynn discussed her vision that became a reality when she founded Evrnu, which uses cutting-edge technology to turn post-consumer fibers into new clothing made of regenerative materials. Another company, I:CO, provides collection and reuse solutions that enable over forty leading brands in sixty countries to participate in the circular economy. I:CO’s Jennifer Gilbert called these “bright lights of progress amidst the daunting impact of textiles disposal.” Circular businesses like these are critical to reducing the textile industry’s environmental impacts, and the group challenged the fashion industry to enter the global circular economy by supporting take-back and the remanufacture of recycled fibers.

The Summit concluded with a facilitated discussion among participants to develop a shared vision for moving forward. Overall, participants agreed that moving away from “fast fashion” by increasing education among consumers about the benefits of a repair, reuse, and recycle mindset is an essential next step.

PSI will continue the dialogue in 2018 to identify tangible steps to increase reuse and recycling. Those interested in participating should contact PSI’s Scott Cassel at (617) 236-4822.

 

Any opinions, findings, and/or interpretations of data contained herein are the responsibility of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the opinions, interpretations or policy of Rochester Institute of Technology and its NYS Pollution Prevention Institute or the State. Funding provided by the NYS Pollution Prevention Institute through a grant from the Environmental Protection Fund as administered by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.

 


[1] Advancing Sustainable Materials Management: 2014 Tables and Figures, U.S. EPA, January 2016.
[2] Pulse of the Fashion Industry: 2017, Global Fashion Agenda and The Boston Consulting Group, Inc., 2017.
[3] The Re-clothe NY Coalition, New York State Association for Reduction, Reuse & Recycling, 2017.
[4] Huffington Post, interview with Jose Medellin, director of communications for Goodwill NY/NJ, Sept. 28, 2016.

In Response: Cleanup from California Fires Poses Environmental and Health Risks

The Product Stewardship Institute’s Scott Cassel responds to the New York Times’ October 16th article, Cleanup from California Fires Poses Environmental and Health Risks

The toxic ash remaining from the California wild fires should be a wake-up call not only regarding climate change but also toxic products. The manufacture of household and building products that contain hazardous materials will now result in added health costs to residents salvaging items from their devastated homes and to workers assisting in the clean-up effort. There will also be added health risks and costs to dispose of the toxic ash. Unfortunately, those paying these costs will not be the companies who profit from their manufacture, but taxpayers and governments. We need to account for these added costs imposed by the toxic products we buy to clean and maintain our homes. These products should cost more to buy compared to safer products that do not impact the environment. It is time to stop allowing manufacturers of toxic products to unload the true costs of making, using, and disposing of their products on taxpayers and governments that clean up their mess and subsidize their profits.

Sincerely,

Scott Cassel
Chief Executive Officer + Founder
Product Stewardship Institute, Inc.

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In Response: The Drug Industry’s Triumph Over the DEA

The Product Stewardship Institute’s Scott Cassel recently submitted the following letter to the editor to the Washington Post in response to its October 15th article, The Drug Industry’s Triumph over the DEA

Dear Editor:

The October 15th investigations article, “The Drug Industry’s Triumph over the DEA,” highlights the power of the pharmaceutical industry to avoid taking responsibility for their role in the opioid epidemic, which has torn apart families and imposed unacceptable health costs on society. One billion dollars worth of leftover drugs sits in U.S. medicine cabinets and has become a gateway to addiction, abuse, and accidental poisonings.

It’s time for the U.S. pharmaceutical industry to be held accountable for the massive quantities of medicine it puts on the market. Massachusetts, Vermont, and 18 counties or cities in California, Illinois, New York, and Washington have passed laws that require pharmaceutical companies to finance and/or manage jurisdiction-wide drug take-back programs designed to provide residents with safe and convenient medication drop-off locations at pharmacies, hospitals, and law enforcement offices.

We urge the Council of the District of Columbia to amend the Safe Disposal of Pharmaceuticals Amendment Act of 2017 (B22-0228) to require the industry to take back unwanted medicine and help alleviate the raging opioid epidemic.

Sincerely,

Scott Cassel
Chief Executive Officer/Founder
Product Stewardship Institute

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Help reduce paper use with one click

SHARE ON FACEBOOK | SHARE ON TWITTER | VISIT YOUTUBE

Unwanted phone books are not only a nuisance, but also a waste: the industry uses about 14 football fields’ worth of forest per day. They are also a burden on governments and taxpayers, who pay nearly $60 million annually to get rid of phone books.

It’s time to stop phone book delivery at the source.

Share our video with your networks to encourage others to opt out, and visit http://www.phonebookoptout.us/go to stop phone book delivery.

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Eateries in Greenport, New York Reduce Plastic Marine Debris: A Story of Multi-Stakeholder Collaboration

by Megan Byers

Greenport, NY is a charming seaside village on the North Fork of Long Island.

A few weeks ago, my colleague Vivian Fuhrman and I traveled to the North Fork of Long Island to kick off the Product Stewardship Institute (PSI)’s Trash Free Waters project, a voluntary plastics source reduction initiative funded by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Region 2 and administered by the New England Interstate Water Pollution Control Commission. Through this initiative, PSI is partnering with four local eateries in Greenport, New York – Alices’ Fish Market, Bruce & Son, Lucharitos, and Tikal.1 – to help them voluntarily decrease the disposable plastic items (cups, straws, take-out containers, etc.) that end up on Long Island’s beaches.

When we arrived in the North Fork, gratitude and support for the project appeared from some unexpected sources.

Vivian and I first presented the project to the Southold Town Board – an opportunity made possible thanks to Southold’s Solid Waste Coordinator, Jim Bunchuck. Our goal was to lay the groundwork for developing a model municipal plan to reduce marine debris on a community level. During the discussion, the Board offered a creative idea: they suggested we create a “Trash Free Waters” emblem that the businesses can display in their windows or on their menus to market their marine debris reduction efforts.

Later that day, we met the participating businesses in the Greenport School for our kickoff meeting.  Thanks to the meeting location, teachers Stephanie Pawlik and Brady Wilkins were able to join us and eagerly volunteered to have their students design the “Trash Free Waters” emblem as part of an environmental unit in class. A local artist, Cindy Roe, later contacted PSI and offered to advise the students and judge the submissions. We are now finalizing a plan for the emblem and connecting these volunteers.

Within the following week , at least three local news sources (SoutholdLOCAL, Suffolk Times, and North Fork Patch) published articles about the project. Thanks to this press, the project received many positive comments on social media – in fact, several individuals even suggested their own ideas for reducing plastic pollution!

This sort of community collaboration is a key aspect of protecting our planet. The support we are finding in Greenport is a reminder that, no matter who you are, everyone has their own unique ability to stand up to protect our waterways.

Regardless of the product focus, multi-stakeholder collaboration is a key tenet of PSI’s approach to product stewardship and has been critical to our success. For instance, to address economic and environmental problems caused by leftover paint, PSI facilitated a national group of state and local governments, paint industry representatives, retailers, recyclers, non-profits, and others. After years of research and discussion, that national group created a model paint stewardship bill that now serves as the basis for nine paint stewardship laws passed in the U.S., resulting in 16 million gallons of paint being diverted from disposal, saving governments and taxpayers over $69 million, and creating over 200 jobs.

Marine debris is a visible problem in coastal communities like Greenport, and now a wide variety of stakeholders are ready to address it. PSI knows that this fortuitous synergy from multiple stakeholder groups will boost the participating eateries’ visibility, value, and connection to the community, and that their voluntary plastics reduction effort may serve as a starting point for community-wide action to reduce marine debris.

As a complement to PSI’s Marine Debris Reduction Toolkit for Colleges & Universities, PSI’s work with the Greenport eateries will culminate in a Marine Debris Reduction Toolkit for Eateries that will help businesses and municipalities across the country reduce their contribution to marine debris.

Megan Byers is the newest addition to the Product Stewardship Institute (PSI) team. She focuses on packaging, tracking legislation, and communications work at PSI, and coordinates several state product stewardship councils. She’s leading PSI’s Trash Free Waters project.

 

Seeking Leaders in 2017

Dear Product Stewardship Institute (PSI) Members, Partners, and Colleagues:

I want to wish you all a Happy New Year!

As we step into 2017, those of us working on environmental issues have a big challenge ahead. How can we work together to reduce material consumption and, to quote Professor Bob Giegengack, “move toward a less unsustainable society”?

We founded PSI in 2000 to represent state and local government views about product stewardship, and we received formal letters signed by chief environmental executives from 47 states pledging to work with PSI to encourage manufacturers to take responsibility for reducing the health and environmental impacts of their products. We have always worked for all state and local governments – those seeking regulatory changes, as well as those advancing voluntary initiatives. In our eyes, protecting the environment is a non-partisan issue.

PSI actively pursues these goals. In fact, our mediation led to the nation’s first national product stewardship agreement with the paint industry, which resulted in an innovative system that has created over 200 jobs, saved over $69 million for governments, and recycled 16 million gallons of paint. To develop that agreement, the American Coatings Association, state and local governments, the U.S. EPA, retailers, and recyclers took a chance on a process that they could not fully control but that they could influence with their own ideas and interests. These leaders could have stepped away from that agreement at any time, but they did not. And they are all reaping the benefits.

We need more leaders like this. We cannot afford to keep wasting resources.

We need government leaders who will break from the bureaucratic status quo and innovate. We need manufacturing executives who will take risks that lead to greater competitive advantage and industry-wide change. We need recyclers who can artfully balance their operations in the realm of regulation with their allegiance to manufacturers who give them significant business. And we need retailers who can embrace a new role to collect consumer products and turn them back into the circular economy.

PSI is ready to work with those of you who are willing to take a leadership role. You are needed. And now is the time.

May we all be blessed with a healthy and productive 2017.

sc-signature-new-2014-scan

 

 

Scott Cassel
Chief Executive Officer + Founder
Product Stewardship Institute

In Response: “Opioid Poisonings Rise Sharply Among Toddlers and Teenagers”

The Product Stewardship Institute’s Scott Cassel and Vivian Fuhrman recently submitted the following letter to the editor to the New York Times in response to its November 4th article, Opioid Poisonings Rise Sharply Among Toddlers and Teenagers

Dear Editor:

840600_94918677_smlIn the October 31st article, “Opioid Poisonings Rise Sharply Among Toddlers and Teenagers,” you fail to mention drug take-back as the best option for families to rid their homes of the over 1 billion dollars in leftover drugs that sit in medicine cabinets and become a gateway to addiction, abuse, and accidental poisonings. Massachusetts, Vermont, and 14 counties or cities in California, Illinois, and Washington passed laws that make pharmaceutical companies responsible for financing and/or managing jurisdiction-wide drug take-back programs designed to provide residents with convenient, safe drop-off locations at pharmacies, hospitals, and law enforcement agencies. Many countries in Canada and Europe also have laws that require industry to manage the proper disposal of the medications they put into the marketplace. Unfortunately, U.S. pharmaceutical companies continue to promote garbage disposal and refuse to take responsibility for safe drug disposal. It’s time for the American pharmaceutical industry to be held accountable for the massive quantities of leftover medicines that contribute to the opioid epidemic, which has torn apart families and imposed unacceptable health costs on society.

Sincerely,

Scott Cassel, CEO/Founder
Vivian Fuhrman, Ph.D., Associate for Policy and Programs

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