TRAASH: Repurposing Phone Books

Phone Book Projects

For my monthly do-it-yourself projects, I wait for something or someone to inspire me. This month my inspiration came in the form of a phone book. One morning as I walked into the school office, I noticed a stack of new phone books on the counter. I stood there confused, questioning if people actually still use phone books.

As I walked home that night, I noticed phone books everywhere: in front of houses, outside of businesses, and stacked on top of one another in front of an apartment complex. Two days later, I came home to find my copy waiting for me on my front steps.

The phone book now sits on my desk staring back at me waiting to be used, although I don’t use it. Whenever I need a business phone number I search the Internet. Whenever I want a personal phone number (usually a cell number) I ask the person. What could I possibly do with my phone book?

Here are 10 fun and easy things to do with a phone book. No elaborate supplies are needed. For most of the projects I use Mod Podge and a brush. If you don’t have Mod Podge, you can mix 2 parts Elmer’s glue with 1 part water. The other supplies can most likely be found around your house.

Fun ways to repurpose phone book pages:

1. Wrap small presents. Be creative and use different white pages and yellow pages. Use a page with businesses that pertain to the person you are giving the present to. For example; if they are a nurse, use a page from the medical section of the yellow pages.

2. Use as packaging material. Rip pages into strips and use for packaging inside a box when shipping. The pages will create a nice cushion for your valuables.

3. Create origami. Cut pages into squares using a scissor or paper cutter and fold into origami. Each page measures 8 x 11 inches so you can cut one large 8 x 8 inch square or a few smaller ones. If you are teaching origami to a child, a good idea is to use the phone book pages as practice pages before giving them expensive origami paper.

4. Make a scrap book. Tear off the front cover or back cover of the phone book to use as the cover of your book.  Tear multiple pages from the phone book. The number of pages depends on how thick you want your book to be. Fold the cover and pages in half, slide the pages inside the cover, and wrap a rubber band around the fold to hold it together. Fill your scrap book with drawings, paintings, photos, collages, etc.

5. Build a pinata. Tear pages into small 1/2 inch pieces. Glue the pieces onto a balloon using Mod Podge, making sure that the pieces of paper slightly overlap one another. Glue about 3-4 layers of paper, allowing each layer to dry before adding the next. Apply one last layer of glue and let dry. Once dry, you will have a hard sturdy hollow paper ball. Pop the balloon and remove it. Paint, decorate, and fill with candy.

6. Decorate repurposed beads. Use the numbers and letters from the pages to decorate wooden beads or take apart beads from a necklace or bracelet you no longer wear. Rip pages into 1 mm pieces and glue onto the beads making sure the pieces slightly overlap on another (just like with a piñata, only on a smaller scale). Apply a final layer of glue or Mod Podge and let dry. If you want some color, add a thin layer of acrylic paint to the bead once the glue dries.

7. Make hand rolled paper beads. This type of bead is made entirely from paper. Cut pages into long narrow triangles. Starting with the wider end, roll the paper around a round object like a toothpick, straw, or wooden chopstick. Roll about an inch up and then start applying glue or Mod Podge to the paper and continue rolling (making sure to keep the triangle even and centered). Give the finished bead a final coat of Mod Podge and let dry. Remove from the round object and string onto a piece of beading wire, string, or stretchy cord to make jewelry. I like to incorporate other beads in between each paper bead.

Paper Flowers

8. Make paper flowers. Just like tissue paper flowers, the phone book pages can be used to make pretty flowers.  You can use the page as is or add some color using acrylic paint and a dry brush. I paint a thin layer so that the words and images from the page still show through. When making the flower, tear out 6-8 pages and stack them on top of each other. Fold the pages accordion style making sure that each fold is about one inch wide.  Fold the sheets in half and wrap a piece of wire around the fold to hold them together (I used garbage bag twist ties). Carefully separate and fan out each page so that they resemble the petals of a flower.

9. Cover a table. Rip out pages and cover your table to protect it when making any of these DIY projects.

10. Sit on it. Instead of tearing it apart, you can use your phone book as a booster seat or a step stool. Stack up multiple books and use as a table or a chair. 

Most of all, have fun and be creative! I always enjoy seeing what you have made. Please share your repurposed phone book creations by emailing photos to traashart@gmail.com or posting them to my Facebook page @traashart.

Also, check out these artists who repurpose phone books on a larger scale:

Richard Kroeker reused 7,000 recycled phone books to erect a building.

Jolis Paons reused phone book pages to make a beautiful pleated dress.

Artist Chen Long-Bin carves phone books into unbelievable sculptures.

If you would rather not receive a phone book in the future or to find out where to recycle yours, go to the following website: www.yellowpagesoptout.com

Photos by Stephanie Romano

Stephanie Romano

is an artist, mother, teacher, and writer who has made Jersey City her home for the last 15 years. She creates items from recycled vinyl signs and upcycled materials under the name TRAASH.