How to Recycle Books

An Overview on Recycling your Old Books

Whether you’re into chiclit, like reading spy novels, consume a lot of textbooks, or are curious about the latest scientific commentaries, you’re not alone. We consume a lot of literature and sometimes finding ways to recycle books can be a challenge. Books are trees, and as such we need to take care of them.

  • The book and newspaper industries together consumed more than 125 million trees in 2008.[1] We rely on trees for lumber, recreation, wildlife and fish habitat, soil retention, climate regulation, water filtration, and much more.
  • Seventy percent of the carbon dioxide emissions released in producing books comes from making paper.[2] A single book results in the net greenhouse gas emission of about 8.85 pounds.[3]
  • Sixty percent of all printing and writing paper goes to the landfill in the US and Canada every year.[4] When books made of paper are thrown into the landfill, they decompose in an anaerobic environment, emitting methane gas which is a greenhouse gas at least 20 time more potent than carbon dioxide.

So let’s find ways to keep our books out of the landfills in order to reduce our impact on climate change, reduce the need for new trees to be harvested, and save water and other resources.

Ideas for recycling old books through swaps, trades, donations, and more

Giving a book a second life by finding it a new home is the best way to recycle your secondhand books. After all, reusing is always preferable to recycling. These book recycling tips are a great place to start:

  • Swaps:There may be regularly occurring book swap parties in your community or within you local apartment or condo building. If not, start one of your own! Invite all of your friends to come on over and make a party of it! This article on how to organize a book swap will get you started.
  • Online trading:When in-person swaps won’t work try out an online trading or swapping community to send and receive used books. Our directory of recycling resources has a long list of potential book swap sites to get you started.
  • Donations:Many local libraries welcome book donations which they will either fold into their existing collection or sell at an annual book sale to help support library expenses. Alternatively, check with your favorite charity to see if they accept used books. Often senior citizen residences, women’s shelters, and hospices will accept books (especially fiction) for use by their tenants. Our recycling database has a list of charities that commonly take gift-in-kind donations of used household items.
  • Secondhand selling:Of course, there’s always the possibility of selling your used books either online or in a secondhand consignment or used book store. Need ideas on where to find a market for your collection of antique medical texts or complete set of John Grisham novels? Our recycling resources have ideas for these options, too.
  • BookCrossings: This is a completely fun idea. With, you just leave your book on a park bench or the subway seat for someone else to pick up. You’ll have a tag in your book so that you can track it!

How to recycle old books

If you’re not able to find a new home for your used books, then why not try a home crafting idea to turn your books into something new? Try these book recycle projects on for size:

But for those who are not so crafty, there are ways to actually recycle your books through reputable book recyclers who will either find another market for them or take them apart to recover the materials. Our list of book recyclers in our   recycling database will point you in the right direction.



1  Hutsko, J. (2009, August 31). Are E-Readers Greener Than Books?Retrieved July 9, 2010, from The New York Times:

2  McIntire-Strasburg, J. (2008, April 15). Eco-Libris: How Green is the Book Publishing Industry? (Part 2). Retrieved July 9, 2010, from Sustainablog:

3  It's Easy Being Green: How to Be a Greener Reader. (2009, February 9). Retrieved July 9, 2010, from Center for American Progress:

4  The Fiber Cycle in Canada & the United States. (n.d.). Retrieved July 9, 2010, from metaFore:

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