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Can Books be Recycled: Recycling and Donating Books

If you have old books you may wonder if you can recycle them. Often I donate my old unwanted books, but possibly recycling them could be an option too. So I did some research to find out if it can be done and if it should be done.

So, can books be recycled? Books, being mainly paper—are highly recyclable material. Most Recycling centers accept paperbacks without restrictions. Hardback books are sometimes restricted due to the glue and other forms of binding methods. Check with your local recycling center to be sure what is allowed.

I went a little deeper into the question though to find out all that should be considered, and I really take a look at if recycling books is the best option.

Recycling books

Books are definitely a recyclable material. They are pretty much completely paper. The covers themselves are typically some kind of paper stock, or in the cases of some hard covers, they are cardboard.

All of this is obviously recyclable.

Even if it's a plastic cover or plastic coated paper stock, this is usually acceptable too and can still be recycled.

As a result it appears that most recycling centers do accept books, and are able to make use of them. The only thing that is commonly restricted is hard cover books.

Hard cover books may be binded in various ways. One of the most common is with glue, and that's the main issue, since the glue can't be recycled. Therefore, many recycle centers will restrict taking in any hard covers.

That's why you should check with your local center and find out their specific requirements and restrictions, because different centers have more capabilities to deal with those things.

Even if you have a restricted hard cover books that you are trying to recycle, you may still be able to accomplish it. One thing people do is remove the cover first, which can be a little laborious, but that removes the glue and you can donate the rest of the paper bulk.

But yeah that can get tricky. In some cases you would literally have to saw off the paper away from the cover. Lot's of people just aren't going to deal with that.

Paperbacks or soft cover books can actually use glue as well for the binding. So it's still a good idea to check if they would be permissible. But they also use staples, folding and stitching, and in most cases they are accepted.

How to recycle books

Books can be dropped off at recycling centers in your local area, or you can simply drop them in your recycle bin if you have them where you live.

Magazines and softcover can be pretty much freely recycled as talked about above.

When it comes to hardcover books you will need to remove the cover first and throw the cover away if it contains non-paper material. Then just recycle the paper.

If the paper is old, spoiled, stained from water etc. Then it should be thrown away—as recycle centers can't sort this and make use of it.

You can use the Waste Management recycling facility locator to find a center near you to take your books.

Should books be recycled or donated

So the real question is, should the books be recycled at all, or should you donate them?

I think it would be best to donate your books if at all possible. Of course first you should determine if you can sell them. Often times your books will hold value and you can still get money for them.

There are still many book stores and thrift stores that will purchase your used books at a price depending on the value, popularity and general condition of the book.

Or a little easier would be to simply donate your books.

There is way more donation centers, thrift stores etc. that will accept book donations. So you don't have to spend the time to really sort them or figure out what kind of price you can get for them, just box them up and drop them off. As an added benefit if the donation center can't use the book for whatever reason, they will be more likely to recycle the material as well.

There is also many other ways to contribute your books to a good cause. For example libraries will accept books in good condition, schools, or foundations for kids.

Find a way in your local area to donate the books for a good cause if you can.

So there is many ways to clean books out of your house and turn them over to the public that can still enjoy them.

But what if your books don't have any value at all? And people don't want them even for free?

If for whatever reason you can't donate your books to others, then at the very least you should recycle the books. They should never end up in the garbage if at all avoidable.

Trees are too valuable of a resource to be thrown away in the trash.

Of course you can't always avoid the trash. Like if the paper is spoiled and too dirty, you may have to toss it. Or find some other use for it, like as fire starter for example. But if you can, it would be great to put in the extra effort to recycle your old books.

Related Questions

What to do with old books you can't sell? Most books in decent condition can easily be donated for free to charities, donation centers, thrift stores and libraries. And even schools in some cases. If you can't donate the book you can recycle the paper and materials of the book.

Are board books recyclable? The cover and pages of board books are all paper based, therefore they are recyclable. However the binding might be glue, or some other threading that isn't recyclable, so that may have to be removed first. Check with your local recycle center to see what they will accept.


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