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Are Books Recyclable? How Do You Properly Dispose of Them?

Pile of Books

If you’re part of the growing population of eco-conscious readers, you might wonder what to do with your old books once you’re finished. Can they be recycled? Should they be donated? And what is the most sustainable way to dispose of them? The good news is that books are recyclable!

In fact, they can be recycled into new paper products, like toilet paper and paper towels. However, there are a few things to keep in mind before you recycle your books. Keep reading to find out everything you need to know about recycling books sustainably.

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Can Pages From Books Be Recycled?

Stacks of old books
Image By: Carles Rabada, Unsplash

The first thing to consider is whether your book is actually recyclable. If it’s in good condition, it can probably be recycled. However, if it’s damaged beyond repair, it might not be able to be recycled into new paper products.

The reason for this is that paper recycling mills require a certain amount of paper to be of a certain quality in order for it to be recycled.

So if your book is torn, water-damaged, or otherwise damaged, it might need to go in the trash instead of the recycling bin. When in doubt, check with your local recycling center to see if they accept damaged books.

What to Do With Recycled Books

If your book is in good condition and you’re ready to recycle it, there are a few things you need to do first.

  • Start by removing any plastic covers or dust jackets. These can’t be recycled with the rest of the book and should be placed in the trash.
  • Next, take out any metal staples or wire bindings. Either can damage the recycling equipment, so it’s important to remove them before recycling.
  • And lastly, if your book is particularly large or hardcover, you might need to cut it down to size so that it fits in your recycling bin. Hardcover books, in particular, have to have the bindings removed first so that only the pages are recycled.

Once your book is ready to be recycled, you can place it in your curbside recycling bin or take it to a local recycling center.

What Happens to Recycled Books?

shredded paper
Image By: Hans, Pixabay

When your book reaches the recycling center, the first thing that happens is that it’s sorted by type and quality. For instance, the best quality paper is set aside to be recycled into new paper products, like office paper and newspapers.

The lesser quality paper is used to make things like egg cartons, cereal boxes, insulation, or animal bedding. So even if your book isn’t in perfect condition, it might still be recycled into something useful.

How Can You Dispose of Books Sustainably?

The most sustainable way to dispose of your books is to donate them to a local library, school, or used bookstore. This way, someone else can enjoy them, and you don’t have to worry about them taking up space in a landfill.

On that note, recycling books save a considerable amount of energy and resources. For every ton of recycled paper, there are three cubic yards of space saved at landfills.

But that’s not all! That ton of recycled paper also saves approximately 17 trees, 380 gallons of oil, and 7,000 gallons of water. Those are pretty significant numbers!

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Bottom line—if you can’t donate your books, recycling them is the next best thing. Just make sure to check with your local recycling center to see what their policies are regarding books. That way, you can be sure that your books will actually be recycled and not end up in the landfill.

Featured Image Credit: Eli Digital Creative, Pixabay


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