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11 Ridiculously Practical Ways to Recycle Books

Featured image for recycle books article

According to Statista, 750.89 million printed books were sold in the US in 2020. But what happens with all of them once they’re read?

Do you balk at the idea of throwing away a book but also fear your shelves might collapse from all the volumes you’ve stacked on them?

Then recycle them. Here are several ingenious ways to recycle books.

11 Practical Ways to Recycle Books

1. Donate Books to the Local Library

If your books are in good condition, consider donating them to the local library. The great thing about that is libraries will accept other paper products, such as magazines, and the library can also sell them to fund other programs.

2. Give Them to the Local Little Free Library

Little Free Library [1] has book-sharing boxes that function on a book swap principle. There are over 32,000 little libraries across 50 states and other countries.

3. Donate to Better World Books

This organization collects and sells donated books to fund literacy initiatives worldwide.

So far, Better World Books has made $24 million for literacy and education. Just go to their website [2], and you too can be a part of the work they’re doing.

4. Donate to a Local Charity

Goodwill and Salvation Army are always great choices for book donations, but you can find other charities and thrift stores in your area that conduct book drives as well.

5. Give Away Unwanted Textbooks

College students accumulate tons of textbooks. Instead of filling landfill space, donate them to local communities that help students.

Or think globally and give your textbooks to the Bridge to Asia program, which helps teachers and students in China get a hold of textbook publishers that aren’t available in China.

6. Recycle Books Through Curbside Recycling Programs

Paperback books in poor condition, old books, or phone books can be recycled. Just place them in the correct curbside recycling bin.

Note: You might have to remove the cover from hardcover books to recycle your books.

7. Use a Recycling Directory

If your area doesn’t have a recycling books service, you can use GreenCitizen’s Green Directory. Here you can find both commercial and government recycling alternatives in the area where you live.

8. Give to Recycle Bookstore

If you live in California, another way to recycle is by using Recycle Bookstore. This is a great way to breathe life into your old books. They are always on the lookout for gently used books. Just check out their site for San Jose and Campbell addresses.

9. Trade Books

You can exchange books for an Amazon gift card by using Amazon’s Trade-in Program. Amazon will accept books as long as they’re in good condition.

10. Sell Books

Book sales are a great way to get rid of old textbooks and get new books or magazines. You can sell them on Facebook Marketplace or advertise them in your school groups.

Great ideas for selling books are also online websites, such as Craigslist, where you can get rid of paper products.

11. Repurpose Them

Make something practical or decorative. Browse Pinterest for a fun way to repurpose your old books, such as how to make a coffee table or a Christmas tree out of textbooks.

For example, you can use pages of old phone books to make something creative for your friends or pages from picture books to decorate your children’s bedroom.

Where to Donate or Recycle Old Books

You can use Green Citizen’s Green Directory to find the nearest book recycling center or drop-off location. All you have to do is type in “books” and your address or zip code.

Other places where you can donate or recycle old books are:

  • Freecycle — Functions the same as Craigslist.
  • BookCrossing — Send or exchange books with other members. This isn’t only an excellent way to make sure your books don’t go to waste, but a great way to get new books as well.
  • Boys and Girls Club — Accepts children’s book donations.
  • Books Through Bars — Donates books to inmates.
  • Books For Africa — Donates to students in Africa.
A book sale filled with books stacked beside each other

How to Prepare Your Books for Recycling

Although they are made up mostly of paper, books are difficult to recycle because of the adhesives used to bind them.


Yes, it’s challenging to do, but not impossible. You can recycle books, magazines, even binders, as they fall into the category of mixed paper.

  1. Each community is different, so for further information, check first if your local council has a book recycling program.
  1. Remove the mixed paper cover, such as binders. Also, some places don’t accept hardcover books, so you’ll have to remove this cover as well.
  2. Check that the paper isn’t tan or brown and that pages aren’t splashed with liquid. If this is the case, throw the mixed paper in with household trash.

The Book Recycling Process

This is what the recycling process for paperbacks looks like:

  1. Because books and magazines are mixed paper, they’re separated from office paper, cardboard, etc.
  2. Books are then mixed with chemicals and water to get a pulp.
  3. Ink and debris are removed from the pulp.
  4. The pulp is put on huge screens to dry and become new, lower-quality paper.

Note though that hardcover is more difficult to recycle, and many recycle centers don’t want to have glue inside the hardback spine mixed in with the paper. Hardback can be removed with a saw, which is time-consuming.

Why Should You Recycle Your Books?

It’s estimated that 640,000 tons of books end up in a landfill each year.

Book held by a hand while being bathed in warm sunlight

If we assume that average paperback books weigh 4 pounds, this amounts to 320 million books destroyed and not recycled.

US landfills are quickly reaching their full capacity, and it’s estimated that we have 18 years until they become full. While books aren’t the only trash that goes in a landfill, they do significantly contribute to this.

Moreover, think about the impact on the environment. We make paper from trees, so the more new paper we use, the more trees we cut. On the other hand, the more paper is recycled, the fewer trees are cut down.


Can you recycle hardcover books?

Yes, you can recycle hardcover books, but it’s going to be more difficult than paperbacks. Check with your local recycling center before you put them in the recycle bin.

Should I throw away old books?

No, you shouldn’t throw away old books, as this creates waste. Sell them online or find a way to recycle them.

Who will buy my used books?

Many online places will buy used books, and even magazines, such as eBay, Abebooks, and Amazon.

How do you dispose of encyclopedias?

You can dispose of old encyclopedias by donating them to local schools or libraries. Check with the local charity if they accept donated encyclopedias or throw a garage sale.

Can you put books in paper recycling?

You can put books in paper recycling if the recycler accepts it. It really depends on the recycler. Contact your waste hauler or city to check.

What old books are worth money?

First editions, signed books, inscriptions with content, historic atlases are among old books that are worth money. To check the value of your book, go to Abebooks.

Final Thoughts

If you’re on the fence about recycling books, or the idea of getting rid of a few books makes your heart palpitate, then think about how recycled books can make other people happy.

Moreover, by recycling, you’re clearing space on your shelf for more books.

There are so many options you can go for instead of chucking your book into the wastebasket.

Check out our Green Directory to find the recycling center close to you, and breathe new life into your books today.



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