Can I recycle books?
Putting aside the stories or knowledge within its pages, what are books but stacks of paper held together by glue, cloth, or string? If you can put paper in your recycling bin, chances are you can recycle books, too. But exercise caution before putting whole books into the bin, because the stuff holding the paper together — glue, cloth, or string — can be problematic for some recyclers. There’s also the cover to consider, since it may contain plastic, cloth, leather, or other non-paper bookbinding materials.
Some recyclers accept both hardback and paperback books, while others may only accept paperbacks. Some require the binding to be removed, while others will accept whole books. To be safe, remove the binding and cover, and any other material (such as plastic dust jackets or bookmarks) that is not paper before putting in the recycling bin. Ultimately, it’s always best to contact your waste hauler or city to see if they have specific instructions.
Even better than recycling books is reusing books. Unwanted books have plenty of options to live long, useful second lives. Here are a few ideas:
- If the books are in good condition and are in demand, you might be able to sell them or trade them in for credit at a used bookstore.
- Donate them to your local library or school, charitable organizations, thrift stores, nursing homes, or shelters. Be sure to call the location before you try to drop off anything.
- Public book swap locations can be found in many local establishments and might be a good place to offload a few unwanted books. Coffee shops, libraries (some have a section for free books), and even parks are possible places to find a take-a-book-leave-a-book shelf.
- If you can’t find a book swap shelf in businesses or organizations in your community, see if you’re near a Little Free Library or create your own! Little Free Libraries are just what they sound like — small free libraries, usually hosted on a person’s private property, where you can donate or borrow books. They’re coordinated through a nonprofit organization with the help of volunteers around the world; visit Littlefreelibrary.org for more information.