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3 Options for Book Recycling

These are several ways to engage in book recycling to benefit the planet, your community, and your children or grandchildren.



October 24, 2020

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If you started building your personal library in the pre-e-reader days, chances are it’s one of the more cumbersome parts of your life. Decluttering your books can be stressful, as they’re one of the hardest things with which to give away. However, because they’re already organized in some way, they sometimes make for a great place to start your first decluttering project!

Here are 3 options for book recycling that can benefit the planet, your community, or your children and grandchildren. 

  1. Recycle them like usual (if they meet specific criteria)

The recycling world categorizes books (and magazines) as mixed paper. Even though this means they have a smaller recycling market than similar products like newspapers and cardboard, most U.S. paper mills still process them.

However, not all books or magazines are automatically fit for recycling. If the pages of your materials were wet or have turned brown or tan due to exposure, they’re no longer recyclable. 

Additionally, if you want to recycle old textbooks or recycle hardcover books, you’ll have to do some extra work. You have to unbind these items before recycling them. This means that the pages must be separated from the hardcover, and the page bindings must be removed. Here’s a handy guide in case you need help with this step

  1. Consider donating your old books 

If your books are in good enough shape to recycle, but you’re unwilling to send them off to that great paper mill in the sky, then donating might be a better option. There are plenty of places that will accept your old or unwanted books:

  • Your local library will likely accept donations of unwanted books that are in good condition. Even if they don’t, they’ll probably be able to point you towards other organizations, like mutual aid groups, that will accept them.
  • A used bookstore in your area also might accept your items. Consider giving them a call to see what they’re interested in acquiring.
  • If you want to cut out the middle man, then you could place your books in a Little Free Library! Little Free Library is a worldwide project where neighborhoods build tiny libraries throughout their community. Anyone is free to take and leave whatever books they please. You can find a Little Free Library in your area here.

  1. Turn them into “altered books”

If you don’t want to recycle your books and are unsure if they’ll find a new home somewhere else, then there’s one more option: altered books. Altered books are books that have been repurposed into art! 

The pages can be drawn on to make art journals, used to mount collages, or cut and altered to create patterns. You can also black out words on individual pages to create poetry! With some simple art supplies, your children and grandchildren can give any book a second life full of new meaning! 

Book recycling can take so many different forms. 

Whether you’re ready to let go of your books and recycle them, think someone could still enjoy reading them, or want to see them transformed into art, there are so many options from which to choose. As you declutter your personal collection, feel free to allocate a few books to each category. No matter which one you choose, rest assured that your books will continue bringing joy to somebody. 

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