Since books are made up of paper — one of our major natural resources and one of the very first recycled items — you might believe that that they rarely end up in landfills. Paper has been recycled since 2400 B.C., and the first paper mill was established in 1960 for the sole purpose of recycling. However, books continue to fill landfills worldwide. With so many viable options to recycle your books, there is no reason why they should continually be thrown in to the trash. Whether you’re a student bound with textbooks, a bookworm or you simply enjoy your tabloids, making the effort to recycle your reading material will provide significant environmental benefits while also decreasing the 60 million tons of waste that enters landfills annually. The effects of book production A major element of recycling is reusing, and this is extremely important when it comes to recycling books, because the environmental effects of book production is a serious issue. The average paperback requires 4.5kWh of energy before it reaches the hands of the reader. Producing the glossy book cover aesthetic emits 3kg of carbon dioxide, and for every print run of 10,000, 30 tons of carbon dioxide emissions are released into the air. That’s not to mention the greenhouse gases or fuel emissions that pollute the air through shipping of new products. One new book has a greenhouse gas emission of approximately 8.85 pounds and with 60% of carbon dioxide emissions being directly linked to the production of paper, this poses a serious environmental threat. All of this pollution and use of natural resources could significantly decrease with the reuse approach. Donate your books to a local library or friends, and opt for the same options before purchasing a new copy. More than 125 million trees are consumed for book and newspaper production annually, and we still rely on trees for other resources such as lumber, wildlife and fish habitats, soil retention, climate control, water filtration and recreation. The worst part is that 60% of all printing and writer paper ends up in North American landfills each year. Instead of being recycled, books decompose in landfills while emitting methane gas, which is 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide. Simply changing your approach to finding new books and opting to recycle them when you are finished will make an incredible difference on the environment. What can be recycled? Some people may be confused as to whether or not their book can be recycled. All books can be recycled, however, hard covers should be removed and discarded before placing them into a recycling bin, as the glue used in the spines of hardcover books cannot be recycled. Some facilities will accept hardcover books and remove the necessary parts themselves. As for magazines, only 45% are recycled, despite being 100% recyclable. The shiny pages may be a cause for recycling confusion, but magazine pages are not contaminated paper. All newspapers, catalogs and phone books can also be recycled. If 500 books are repurposed, the American Forest and Paper Association states that 17 to 31 trees can be saved, along with 7,000 gallons of water, 463 gallons of oil, 587 pounds of air pollution, 3.06 cubic yards of landfill space and 4,077 kilowatt hours of energy. New uses for recycled books The possibilities for recycling are certainly endless, and the benefits are proven to be just as exponential. If you recycle 1 ton of paper, you have saved enough energy to power the average American home for six months. With next to no effort needed to recycle these items, you could be significantly decreasing the environmental issues we face today. The majority of paper in books and magazines will be recycled into newspaper, tissue, writing paper and paperboard. Old newspapers are often made into cereal boxes, egg cartons, grocery bags and even products like fiber mulch, which is used to grow greenery. Paper recycling efforts are significantly increasing, and you can ensure that it continues to do so by sending your books to a recycling facility. The book recycling process Once the recycling facility has gathered your books, they are transported to a paper mill to begin the recycling process. The books will be shredded, washed and mashed until they consist of a watery mixture, which is referred to as pulp. The pulp then goes through a process to remove any unwanted materials that may have been attached to the books, and is then spread evenly across a wire screen. The pulp is then pressed intensely to remove any excess water. Once dried and rolled into a new sheet, the pulp is split into smaller rolls or cut into sheets and is now paper again. Do your part to start the book recycling process. If reusing your books is not a viable option, take a minute to place them in the recycling bin. To find a book recycling location near you, visit our recycling location finder.
How to Recycle Books
Paper has been recycled since 2400 B.C., the first paper mill was established in 1960 for recycling, books continue to fill landfills worldwide.