For the first time, householders can now opt out of receiving next year's copies of the Yellow and White Pages books.
Communications Minister Amy Adams said today that in an "increasingly digital age" people seemed comfortable accessing information online.
"There are environmental benefits too," she said.
"If just 5 per cent of households opt out, that means there will be about 175,000 fewer books delivered every year.
"This could potentially save about 150 tonnes of paper a year."
This year's deliveries will continue as normal, but people can register their request to opt out of receiving 2015 books.
Green Party information and communications technology spokesman Gareth Hughes had previously called for the government to introduce an opt-in system for the phone books, but said he welcomed the move.
''I think it's a good decision by the government.'' he said. ''Ultimately, for many people telephone books are something they don't use any more.''
Hughes said he probably had not used a phone book in 10 years "except for paper weights or to prop up a computer screen".
''I would have preferred an opt-in system,'' he said.
Yellow chief executive Michael Boersen said the system was being introduced gradually to ensure the books' users and advertisers were not disadvantaged.
"We've introduced opt-out so people who don't use the book can simply choose not to receive one next year.''
Boersen said the company's research indicated ''plenty of people'' used the books regularly.
"We need to make sure they still receive a copy. It's about giving people choice.''
There will be no change in 2014 distribution for businesses advertising in the books, but updated circulation numbers for 2015 will be provided for next year's advertisers, Boersen said.
Aucklanders have two separate books: a combined Yellow Pages and Business White Pages, and the residential White Pages. Auckland residents can opt out of the business book, but must opt in to receive the residential book.
Outside of Auckland, the Yellow Pages and While Pages are combined into a single book, so if residents opt-out of one, they will automatically be opting out of both.
Under the Telecommunications Service Obligation, the Yellow Pages Group was under contract to provide White Pages to New Zealand homes. Historically, this agreement was between the government and Telecom, but when Telecom sold the directories business in 2007, for $2.24 billion, this obligation transferred as well.
Opt-out requests will stick with the address, so if people move in the future, they will need to check their new address to see if books will be received.
Sick of heavy phone books cluttering up your kitchen bench or weighing down the recycling bin?
Here's a list of five things you can do with your old phone books:
1. Raise the height of your computer monitor to relieve neck strain.
2. Fuel home fires on cold winter nights, particularly useful for students with illegal wood burners.
3. Impress all your friends at a party by ripping it in half, strongman style.
4. Use them as booster seats for small family members at the dinner table. Not NZTA approved.
5. Stuff cracks in window frames to block winter draughts. Especially useful for earthquake-damaged houses.
- Fairfax Media