The Yellow Pages

In an increasingly waste and health-conscious world, more and more items once considered staples of our daily lives are being phased out. This week, San Francisco announced that it is considering a ban on the unsolicited distribution of Yellow Pages, dubbed "a 20th century tool that doesn't meet the business or environmental needs of the 21st century" by Board of Supervisors President David Chiu. The ban wouldn't mean the outright death of the phone book--customers could still request that it be delivered--but it does signal that yet another formerly commonplace item may soon be a relic of the past. Here, we take a look at some of the other "new contraband" items in the new green world.

[Homepage image by James]

Plastic Bags
Single-use, non-biodegradable plastic bags are quickly being phased out in cities and countries around the world. Italy completely banned non-biodegradable plastic bags at the beginning of 2011, and area in the U.S. including San Francisco and Los Angeles County have imposed similar bans in the past few years. The bags won't disappear completely, though--last year, a California state bill to ban plastic bags failed.
Happy Meals
Last year, San Francisco became the first major city in the U.S. to ban restaurants from giving away a free toy with meals that have more than certain amounts of calories, sugar and fat. In other words, San Francisco banned Happy Meals. Once the new law goes into effect in December 2011, restaurants will only be allowed to include a toy with a meal if the food and drink combined have fewer than 600 calories, with less than 35% of the calories coming from fat.
BPA-Filled Cans
Bisphenol A (BPA) is an organic compound used to make polycarbonate plastic and epoxy resin. But the substance is dangerous--it's an endocrine disruptor that can potentially trigger obesity, neurological issues, and thyroid disruption. So now BPA is increasingly being phased out. The E.U. and Canada recently banned BPA in baby bottles, and Canada declared BPA to be a toxic substance last year. Many retailers are voluntarily removing BPA from their cans and water bottles as well.
Bottled Water
Bottled water is, in many cases, extremely wasteful--it's often just repackaged tap water shipped in from hundreds of miles away. And while no major city has outright banned it from store shelves, many are taking small steps. San Francisco and Seattle, for example, no longer buy bottled water with city funds. In Oregon, an entire county--Multnomah County--has implemented a similar ban. And last year, Concord, Massachusetts voted to ban all sales of bottled water. Bottled water is here to stay for the foreseeable future--we have a feeling that a country-wide ban would spark widespread rebellion--but small-scale bans are at least causing consumers to think about their buying habits.
Last year, San Francisco considered a proposal that would have banned the sale of all pets except fish within city limits. Pet-seeking residents would have had to adopt a pet from the classifieds, find one at a shelter, or go to another city to purchase one. The reason: proponents claimed that too many people make impulse purchases and then send the pets to shelters, where they are often euthanized. In the end, San Francisco's ban was shelved.
Mercury Thermometers
Mercury-containing thermometers are dangerous; the mercury in a single broken thermometer can pollute up to five million gallons of water, according to the city of San Jose. So it makes sense that mercury thermometers are increasingly being phased out around the world. The Philippines recently banned all mercury equipment from hospitals, Taiwan is in the midst of phasing out mercury thermometers, and many individual states and cities throughout the U.S. have partial or complete bans.
Styrofoam is perhaps the best known of the environmentally-unfriendly products that have been phased out in recent years. The product, outlawed in many places because it takes hundreds of years to break down naturally, has been partially or completely banned in over 100 cities and counties across the U.S. So hang on to your non-compostable Styrofoam containers--they might just become collector's items in the near future. At the very least, you'll be keeping the hardy containers out of landfills.

The New Contraband: 8 Doomed Items in the New Green World

A new, greener world is upon us—and along with it, a new set of contraband items. Start hoarding those phone books.

Add New Comment