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BT to cease production of UK Phone Book

The communications company has claimed the move is a “greener future” for the publication

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BT has said the move is for the environment and for customers as The Phone Book moves online

BT Group, a major communication service company, has begun delivering its last printed phone books to areas around the UK, largely citing unsubstantiated environmental impacts and moves to more digital services.

The Phone Book has arrived in areas like Scotland, Doncaster, and South East Wales, with the front cover reading: “Final Edition, hold on to it forever”.

The company says it prints 18 million Phone Books each year but will bring an end to production in March 2024. 

BT is encouraging the public to hold on to the books as information in them will still be relevant for years to come.

The Phone Book has run since 1880 and by 1914 was the largest single printing contract in the UK, with a million and a half books being printed each year.

The cover page of the Phone Book, 1880

The last edition showcases a timeline of The Phone Book highlighting key moments from its history such as its computerisation in 1970, its exclusive front covers, its resizing, and the removal of plastic wrap in 2019.

Though originally printed in the UK, the current editions are printed by Einsa Print, based in Spain. The company specialises in large volumes of catalogues, directories, magazines, and brochures, many of which of which have reduced volumes over the past few years.

BT has said that the decision to stop printing the books partly due to dwindling demand but has largely advertised the move as a “greener future”.

The company claims: “It’s a move that will have a positive impact on the environment: helping us save around 6,000 tonnes of paper every year – the equivalent of 72,000 trees. It will also help us progress towards BT Group’s target to become a Net Zero business by 2030.”

The statistics made by BT unfortunately go against facts and statistics proven by organisations like Two Sides which state that paper ensures healthy growing forests which encourage climate and biodiversity protection.

Over several years Two Sides has highlighted the serious danger of greenwashing to the print and packaging industries, citing a potential loss of £22.4m of annual value if left unchallenged.  

BT's first telephone phone book launched in Manchester Central, 1984

Many national publications have reiterated BT’s claims but largely focused on the legacy of the books and how the loss will affect communities.

In 2019 The Yellow Pages business directory, owned by Yell, stopped printing after five decades. Like The Phone Book, the publication also moved online due to the change in consumer habits.

BT says it has not taken the move lightly and to ensure customers who rely on the books aren’t left behind they have consulted with Ofcom to put measures in place to support those who may be affected.

For those who still wish to receive a copy BT says customers will be able to order one at a ‘reasonable cost’. 

If you’d like to share news or opinions with us feel free to email at news@printmonthly.co.uk or join in with the conversation on Twitter and LinkedIn.

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