Do you have a bunch of old hardcover books that you need to get rid of? Rather than throwing them directly into the trash and letting them end up in a landfill, why not take a more sustainable route and learn how to recycle them instead?
Paper recycling helps to protect and conserve forests. Plus, it also reduces the consumption of oil, water, and energy, too. And recycling hardcover books (or any books for that matter) is a lot easier than you might think.
So, in this post, I’ll explain how you can clear out your cluttered shelves and make space for some brand-new bestsellers in the most environmentally friendly and sustainable ways possible.
But first of all, let’s see why recycling our old books is so important.
Why Recycle Old Books?
Does recycling old hardcover books really help the planet? The answer is a resounding yes!
For every ton of paper that is recycled, more than 3 cubic yards of landfill space are preserved for other means.
That same ton of recycled paper also saves an estimated 17 trees, 380 gallons of oil, 7,000 gallons of water, and an incredible 4,000 kilowatts of energy!
Currently, only around a third of all new paper pulp is sourced from recyclables; sadly, the rest is created by tearing down living trees.
However, an increase in book recycling means that more recycled paper pulp is available for new paper products. And as a result, more living trees will be spared.
But recycling books isn’t always about creating paper pulp for the next generation of paper products. You can also recycle your old hardcovers by giving them away, upcycling them, or repurposing them, too. This way, you’re keeping them out of a landfill and saving Earth’s precious resources while also letting them live on in their current form for longer.
How to Recycle Hardcover Books?
Before you start loading up the recycling with stacks of your old hardcovers, consider if any of them can be spared.
There are plenty of ways to recycle, reuse, or repurpose your books, and in some cases, you might even be able to make a little money doing it.
Here are a few eco-friendly suggestions of what to do with your old hardcover books before you send them to the recycling plant.
Sell your Books
Selling your old books is a great way to make a little extra money and ensure that your once-treasured reads can continue to give joy and knowledge to others. Plus, it saves Earth’s precious resources and keeps landfills from being overwhelmed.
Hardcover books tend to sell for more money than paperbacks, so you might be surprised at how much money you can make.
Several platforms allow you to sell used books online, including eBay, BookScouter, Amazon’s trade-in program, AbeBooks, and Powell’s Books. Or you can take your books to a physical location such as Half Price Books, which will pay out for hardcovers in good condition.
Another option is to sell your books at a yard sale or flea market. Selling this way lets you interact directly with your customers and negotiate prices, potentially making even more profit.
Donate your Books
Not all hardcover books are suitable for resale, and even if they are, sometimes the selling process can be too time-consuming to make it worth your while.
So, why not donate your old hardcover books to charity? This way, your books will raise money for an important cause and live on in their current form for other readers to enjoy.
Thrift stores such as Salvation Army and Goodwill are a great place to start, and most of these stores will gladly accept your boxes of used books.
Alternatively, Better World Books accepts book donations through their global network of dropboxes, or if there’s no dropbox in your local area, you can mail your books directly to their nearest office. For each book they sell, Better World Books will match the purchase with a Book-for-Book™ donation. Plus, each sale also generates funds for literacy and education initiatives around the world.
For a more in-depth guide on how and where to donate your used hardcover books, check out my dedicated blog post here.
Give your Books Away for Free
Aside from donating your books to charity, another great way to ensure they live on is to give them away to your local community.
Everybody loves free stuff. So, simply placing a “free books” box outside your house on a sunny day can attract a whole host of eager readers who will be happy to give your old books a new home.
Alternatively, you can offer your free books to friends and family through your social media channels. Or, place an ad on community Facebook groups or websites such as Craigslist.com or Freecycle.org. In most cases, it won’t be long before an appreciative person comes by to take them off your hands.
Upcycle your Books
Why not unleash your creative side, get crafty, and give your old hardcover books a brand new lease of life? Hardcover books are particularly versatile when it comes to upcycling and repurposing.
Recycling Books: How to Save them from the Landfill?
Reselling, donating, upcycling, and repurposing your old book collection is the most eco-friendly way to get rid of your unwanted hardcovers. But if your books are particularly old, worn, faded, or damaged, you might find that you’ve no other option than to throw them out.
If this is the case, you’re going to want to make sure that you recycle them properly. The last thing you want is for your once treasured books to be littering a landfill, polluting the environment, and causing more trees to be chopped down.
So, below, I’ll explain the steps you need to take to make sure you responsibly recycle your hardcover books.
- Remove all non-paper components. Before you can recycle your books, be sure to remove anything that isn’t classified as a paper-based product. For hardcover books, this usually includes the front and back covers, as these are likely to contain components such as plastic, glue, string, metal, and wood.
- In some cases, non-paper components can be recycled. Some recycling centers will accept the removed hardcovers in a separate container. Or, they can be repurposed for another use in and around your home.
- Recycle the pages. Pages and any other other paper components, such as bookmarks or cover sleeves, can now be placed in the correct curbside recycling receptacle. In the US, look for the “mixed paper” recycling category.
- Check your local recycling guidelines if you’re unsure. Not all localities operate the same recycling rules. So, if in doubt, check your county’s local recycling policy online or visit a recycling center in person. Some recycling centers will also accept intact and whole hardcover books for recycling. To find a recycling center near you, check out Recycle Nation’s handy database.
Recycling Other Types of Books
If you have paperbacks, textbooks, magazines, and newspapers to dispose of, these can also be recycled. In fact, they’re usually easier to recycle than hardcovers, as they contain fewer nonpaper components.
So, in most cases, these items can be put straight into the “mixed paper” containers without the need to deconstruct them.
Even the most eco-friendly bibliophiles need to clear out their old book collection from time to time. Thankfully, there are plenty of ways to make space on your shelves without polluting the environment and adding to a landfill.
The most sustainable way to get rid of your old books is to sell them, donate them, give them away to your community, or upcycle them into something new. But when those options aren’t possible, recycling them responsibly is the best way to go. For more book lovers’ tips that help the planet, read our handy guide to preserving old books, and find eco-inspiration with our list of Mother Earth-loving literary characters.