The Bulletin

Inventive idea of the day: power by phone books

Posting in Energy
Every day, amid the flurry of emails we receive about product launches, startup pivots and company news announcing their latest "innovation," a few items make us sit up, turn to our cubicle neighbor and say 'hey, this is kinda cool.' Here's the first in what we hope is a daily series highlighting one inventive idea, business plan, approach to design, architecture or city planning. Sometimes they'll be wow items and other times, like today, they'll be a small effort that if implemented on a national, regional or even worldwide scale could make a big difference. 

How many old phone books are lying around your home or office? Or how many land on your doorstep or are delivered to your office before they are summarily tossed in the recycling bin or trash can? 

Phone books either pile up at your house or in the landfill. Of course, there are efforts to encourage folks to recycle the phone books. The Berry Company, which publishes a lot of these directories, has a Think Yellow, Go Green recycling program. Under the program, the books are often converted into new products including building insulation, newsprint and paper towels. 

In Oahu, they've put a spin on that recycling campaign by using the phone books to generate power. More than 170,000 old phone books were recycled on Oahu last year, reported the Houston Chronicle. The phone books will be recycled into fuel for Hawaiian Electric Company. 

Covanta Honolulu, also known as the HPOWER waste-to-energy facility, processes up to 3,000 tons a day of municipal waste every day, generating 90 megawatts of energy for Hawaiian Electric Company—enough to meet nearly 8 percent of Oahu's power needs. 

— By on January 8, 2014, 10:07 AM PST

Kirsten Korosec

Contributing Editor

Kirsten Korosec has written for Technology Review, Marketing News, The Hill, BNET and Bloomberg News. She holds a degree from Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism. She is based in Tucson, Arizona. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure