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Recycling Phone Books--Boutique Items

Page history last edited by PBworks 15 years, 4 months ago

Old Phonebooks - trash or souvenir?




05-08-07_1704Right at the outskirts of Manila, there is a remarkable place called the “Smoky Mountain.” The Payatas dump (also known as the smoky mountain) is a 130 foot high garbage dump, homes to millions of scavengers; and it’s growing every day. Every day, about 7,000 more tons of debris is dumped there. While there are thousands of people, teens, and even kids scavenging around trying to find recyclables, there are some things thought unable to be recycled in the Philippines, but there is a use. One of these is old phonebooks. Phonebooks are thought to be too full of ink and too colorful to be of any good use for paper recycling. There is an organization called Alay Kapwa who helps underprivileged poverty stricken people learn how to make great handicrafts out of old trash in order to make a good living to support them. One of the many handicrafts that they make, are pretty baskets made from old phonebooks.

What is in a phonebook; beyond the numbers, ads, and references? Can it be used to make a durable, beautiful handicraft such as a bag? Is it worth it to sort your trash just for the sake of recycling? Is it really worth all the trouble? Can people really make a living from recycling old materials such as phonebooks to make special handicrafts? Why don’t most people think to recycle? Why do most people waste so much? Is trash really garbage, or could it be ‘antiques?’

Can someone really use an old phonebook to make something beneficial? Most people would burn their old newspapers or phonebooks for the idea that they can’t be recycled. Both can be recycled, but would it be more beneficial to a person to make something out of it than just selling it to recycling companies? Burning materials is never a good thing. They burn it so that there will be less garbage. Will showing people how to recycle the little things like old phonebooks, inspire them to recycle more things in their life? How can one communicate the recycling process to the community?

This project is to research the biology of certain fibers that make up national phonebook paper and how that applies to the structure of what’s made. This will be achieved through first hand observations, interactions with people at the Alay Kapwa Christian community, and research of works done by others previously. The results of these findings will guide the experimental phase, where it will be concluded which way to make a handicraft with old phonebook paper would be most beneficial.

The goal of this project is to develop a good system of recycling phonebooks as a way of earning money to improve their livelihood and to inspire others to think and act upon recycling more frequently to lessen the amount of wasted garbage dumped.




photographPhonebook pages are made of a special kind of lighter-weight paper called newsprint. These newsprint papers consist of very short wood fibers that have been ground up and mashed together. The most common and prominent of these multiple types of wood fibers comes from the bark of Pine Trees. The pine tree most commonly used for paper in Southeast Asia is the Keteleeria davidiana.

Common Names and Synonyms

There is no English common name for Keteleeria davidiana although it is also sometimes referred to as Pseudotsuga davidiana. In China, it is known as tie jian shan although no other language has developed a name for it because it is rare in other countries. Most often, when seen by a passerby, it is often referred to as a pine tree.



Kingdom: Plantae

Phylum: Coniferophyta (conifers, cone-bearing trees)

Class: Pinopsida (cone-bearing seed plants)

Order: Pinales

Family: Pinaceae (Pine Family)

Genus: Keteleeria

Species: k. davidiana


Morphology and Physical Description

Keteleeria davidiana are large evergreen trees capable of growing up to 40m high with a diameter of 1.5m. The outer bark is grayish-brown, irregularly fissured and shaky, and has the appearance of fish scales when peeling off. It is also very hard and rough as well. The inner bark is pale brown, very fibrous and is very densely scattered. Their leaves are linear (long, liney, and lengthy), flat, and acute, and are glossy and have midrib ridges on both sides. Freshly cut wood is pale yellowish red or pale apricot yellow. The tree has many buds which hold the underdeveloped leaves and stem and they turn red during spring, making the forest really beautiful. Male blossoms (pine cones) are cylindrical and tend to cluster at the end of twigs; cones are solitary, erect, cylindrical, and oblong (tall, length is longer than its width), turning brown when mature. The seeds are the same length as the scales, appearing longer when the scales expand and are bright glossy brown. The wood of the Keteleeria davidiana is quite oily, soft, white, and yellow and is often used for constructing buildings (Wikipedia).

Getting Food

The Keteleeria davidiana is a plant therefore it is an autotroph (self feeder). It uses photosynthesis to capture energy from the sun and convert it into glucose that it can use for energy for itself and other animals if they do so try to eat them.


At a certain time, every year, the Keteleeria davidiana produces long bright glossy brown seeds. When the winds blow, they may knock some seeds off and carry it off into another place. Hopefully, the seed would land in nice fertile soil, where it would become germinated and thus start growing into another tree. Also, many new branches may grow from buds from the tree.


Origin and Distribution

Found in East Asia, mainly in Southern China and Taiwan. They have been brought to other countries such as Australia, the US, and Britain just for studies but they are quite rare. This tree requires hot dry climates to grow efficiently therefore it doesn’t grow very well in other places than Southeast Asia. Most of all these trees are found in Southern China, and are slowly starting to disappear from our world because they have been chopped line drawingdown too many times.


Environmental Factors

Young plant in cultivationThe Keteleeria davidiana trees mainly live in lowland forests. The only problem with that is that the habitat is commonly invaded by broadleaved species, leading to very poor regeneration. Also, other bugs and pests may harm the trees and make them sick.


Importance to People

Keteleeria davidiana is used for construction, bridges, furniture and wood fiber. Often times also, people may plant the tree in their yard for beauty, or shade. Sadly, there is no known use for food or medicine, but they’re useful enough with their wood. They are wonderful wood for furniture; they have the perfect shade, texture, and quality. The wood is a bit oily, but that makes it all the more easier to work with especially with construction. The wood fiber is used in many ways; in this case, it is made short and mixed with a ton of other fibers in order to make the paper that is part of a phonebook. A little wood goes a long way.


Survivability and Endangered Status

The Keteleeria davidiana is starting to get so few in number in Taiwan, that the government has put a restriction on cutting down those trees. Many nations are starting to worry about these trees because they have become so rare. The major reasons are: people cutting them down without replanting, poor reproduction, and poor regeneration. These trees are going down faster than they’re going back up.




Possible Solutions


Phonebooks are an important part of household life, yet are usually annually replaced and the old is thrown out. So much paper has gone to waste because of such actions contributing to the steadily growing rate of deforestation. Statistics show that for every 500 American phonebooks recycled we save:

·         7,000 gallons of water

·         3.3 cubic yards of landfill space

·         17-31 trees

·         4,100 kilowatts of energy – enough to power an average home for six months.

In order to maintain our world, and help better develop it to provide sufficient resources, one must learn how to not waste precious things that seem unusable. There are many possibilities that would speed the process of phonebook recyclability.


Possibility 1 – phonebook recycling centers

In some States in America, during September and October, the time when new phonebooks are passed out, certain programs are started to recycle old phonebooks. Phonebooks are useful for making insulation, cardboard and becoming a part of the fibers that make up other p01phonebooks. If these can be recycled in the U.S., why can’t it be done in the Philippines?


1.       People would have a place to put their old phonebooks instead of just throwing them away or letting them rot and mold somewhere hidden, never to be used again.

2.       Phonebooks may be reused to make other phonebooks, or sold directly to others for making handicrafts, or other art pieces similar to that.

3.       Lots of landfill space, new trees, energy and water would be saved due to the reuse of the fibers making it not as necessary to find new and more resources.



1.       Phonebooks are often bonded by this special glue that is undissolvable in water.

2.       Phonebook paper fibers are so short that they aren’t permitted to be used in everything (i.e. paper)

3.       Although it may be located in a nice spot, many Pilipino still wouldn’t have known this existed or wouldn’t have cared enough to invest their much needed money on it.





Possibility 2 – Phonebook handicrafts and boutiques

p02 In Alay Kapwa and Thai Craft Fairs, they developed a way to use phonebook pages as a way to make an income for poverty stricken communities. In Alay Kapwa, woman weave baskets out of rolled up phonebook paper and paint it with lacquer; making it look like real wood. In Thai Craft Fairs, they make little bugs or insect shaped magnets or paperweight decorations out of rolled up phonebook paper as well. These bugs look cute and are a great profit especially as souvenirs from tourists.



1.       Low income families would have a nice crafty way of income that they may obtain staying at home, similar to that of threads of hope.

2.       Phonebooks will be re-used and recycled in this way, so it doesn’t go to landfill and waste.

3.       Offers a new kind of boutique, a new style that may bring more trade in the country if successful.


1.       People would need to develop a system of obtaining old phonebooks from others without spending all their money buying it.

2.       The materials for these crafts initially cost lots of money

3.       These handicrafts will not sell as much locally in some province or manila as it would in some tourist location.

4.       The success of these products relies upon the acceptance of the buyers.


Possibility 3 – Educating children about the problem

The children are our future. Teaching them how to recycle, conserve, preserve, and protect our earth would prove to be useful as they grow older. Sharing with them a love of nature would help instill in them a passion for taking care of their world.

In the Bible, in Proverbs 22:6, it says: “Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.” As Christians, I feel it is our responsibility to watch out for the next generation and to inform them of problems that they will have to deal with and also instruct them on how to come up with the solution. How can anyone solve a problem that they don’t even know exists?

This was my action step. I went out to some kids in my neighborhood and held a demonstration of the importance of recycling newspapers and then brought some kids back to my house to work on a “craft” together using phonebook paper. I stressed the usefulness of phonebook paper and how throwing it away is just a waste.



1.       Children talk a lot. They go home and spread the word to their families and relatives and other friends. By targeting children, one also reaches their families and the people around them.

2.       Children tend to get more excited than others. They tend to easily get passionate about something which rubs off on others who furthers their action steps. They also contain much more energy to follow through with things that require a ton of energy that most would give up on.

3.       By educating these children we are ensuring their future. By making sure they know how to recycle and preserve our resources here on earth, we can have security knowing that they will not harm it anymore.



1.       The kids might easily forget what I just taught them by the year’s end. Also, they might not get very interested in it, and might dismiss it forever.

2.       The children may not realize the importance of it all yet and may be too young to comprehend it all.

3.       Children normally do not have the means, power, or authority to make a significant difference in their communities individually immediately. The effects of their teachings may take a while to show.




"Alay Kapwa." AlayKapwainc. 2005. geocities. 5 May 2007 <http://www.geocities.com/alaykapwainc/akwebpage_6>.

Bolido, Linda B. "The Quest for Zero Garbage in the Philippines." Newsroom.Wri. May 2003. Philippines Daily Inquirer. 5 May 2007 <http://newsroom.wri.org/wrifeatures_text.cfm?ContentID=1329>.

Bolodo, Linda B. Telephone interview. 5 May 2007.

"Phone Book." SF Environment. 1996. San Fernando Environment. 5 May 2007 <http://www.sfenvironment.com/facts/phone_book.htm>.

Power, Mathew. "Garbage Mountain." Loe.Org. 2006. Living on Earth. 5 May 2007 <http://www.loe.org/shows/segments.htm?programID=07-P13-00003&segmentID=6>.

Power, Mathew. "Living on Earth: Garbage Mountain." Loe.Org. 5 May 2007 <http://www.loe.org/shows/segments.htm?programID=07-P13-00003&segmentID=6>.

"Recycle Reuse Waste." Thaicraft.Org. 2006. Thai Craft Fairs. 5 May 2007 <Recycle Reuse Wastehttp://www.thaicraft.org/new/recycle.html>.

"Recycling Phone Books." Co.St-Luis.Com. 2003. Project Redirectory. 5 May 2007 <http://www.co.st-louis.mo.us/doh/waste/phone_book_recycling%20(2).pdf>.

West, Larry. "Why and How to Recycle Phonebooks." About.Com. 2007. Environmental Issues. 5 May 2007 <http://environment.about.com/od/recycling/a/phonebook_recyc.htm>.



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