Piles of unwanted phone books littered throughout the Bay Area and the state could soon be reduced under legislation announced today by state Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco/San Mateo.

At a news conference on the steps of Millbrae City Hall this morning, Yee announced legislation that would allow California residents to request a copy of the phone book each year instead of automatically receiving them from phone companies.

Currently, a phone book is sent out for every phone line in each household unless the resident chooses to “opt out” of receiving one, Yee said.

The new law would instead have residents “opt in” to receive a phone book.

“This is more about saving our natural resources than anything else,” Yee said in a phone interview after the news conference. “The bottom line is that we’re going to save natural resources and save money. It’s a win-win for everyone.”

Each year, roughly 147 million phone books are made nationwide by cutting down about 5 million trees, with California accounting for 10 percent of that, said Millbrae Councilwoman Gina Papan, who announced the legislation with Yee today.

“Only about 16 percent are getting recycled,” Papan said. “The rest get dumped into landfills.”

Yee emphasized that the white pages are accessible on the Internet, and that residents who request a phone book would still be able to get one every year.

“It’s not about preventing people from getting information,” he said. “It’s about how to do it efficiently and smartly.”

Yee said the bill will be introduced in January. If signed into law, it would take effect in January 2011.

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