openbooks.jpg Even though e-books have become hugely popular, American publishers still printed nearly 305,000 paper books in 2013. When you add that to the number of books printed many years prior, you realize there are a huge number of books that will need to be recycled someday. If you are a fan of paper books, how can you recycle them when you are finished with them? It turns out there are many options for recycling books. From placing them in your curbside bin to donating them to an organization that can reuse them, you should be able to keep all your books out of the trash.

How do books get recycled?

Paperback books get recycled the same way as most other types of paper. The books are mixed with water to create a pulp, which is cleaned to remove any ink and debris. The pulp is spread on giant screens to dry and turned into new paper. Not every paper recycler can accept paperback books. However, every recycling company that takes paperback books will process them in much the same way. Paperback books are easier to recycle than their hardback brethren. The hard cover presents a problem for recyclers because it is such a different type of paper than the pages. In addition, many recyclers do not want the glue inside hardback book spines mixed in with the paper. That means the hardback must be removed with a saw, which is a time-consuming process if you have a lot of books. If your local recycling company will not accept hardback books, that is probably why.

Why should you recycle books?

There are some who would say it is a sin to throw a book away. We will skip that argument and go straight to the environmental impact. Paper is made from trees. Rethink Recycling shares that it takes one tree to make 25 books. The more virgin paper we consume, the more trees we have to cut down. The more paper we recycle, the fewer trees we have to cut down. Books are also such a great source of knowledge, information and entertainment. Even with the advent of e-readers, they are still in high demand. Make sure your books get to people who will enjoy them just as much as you did.

How to reuse books

We are going to start with reuse because it makes sense to reuse books whenever possible. Besides, if you do not live in a community where books are accepted in your curbside recycling bin, reusing books may be easier for you. If you want to make some money off your books, inquire at a local used bookstore to see if they buy old tomes. There are also book exchanges where you bring in your book, pay a very small fee and take a new book home with you. See if your local Friends of the Library program holds a book sale or runs a bookstore. Book sales are a very popular way for libraries to raise money and make sure books are put back to good use. A local thrift shop may be very interested in your old books. Stores like Goodwill recognize the value of books and have set up giant book sections in many of their stores. If you have textbooks, first readers or other educational books, a local school may be interested in them. You may also be able to donate them to a national organization that sends them to people overseas who cannot afford books. Books for Africa and the International Book Project are a few examples. Check with local women’s shelters, homeless organizations and other charities to see if they have a need for old books. Books can be a great resource for people looking to improve their reading skills or get their mind off their troubles.

How to recycle books

If you have books that are in poor condition, do some research to see if your local solid waste district has a book recycling program. There is huge variety in whether communities accept hardback or softback books. For example: People who live in Pittsburg and Kansas City can put all kinds of books in their curbside recycling bin. Residents of Nashville and Boston can put paperback books in their curbside recycling bins but not hardback books. Residents of Iowa City can take paperback and hardback books to one particular transfer station – the East Side Recycling Center. In Boulder, they need to go to the Center for Hard-to-Recycle Materials (CHaRM) facility. Royal Oak, Michigan, and several surrounding communities split the difference: homeowners can place softback books in their curbside bin and take hardback books to a recycling center. Long Beach (CA) and Providence (RI) residents are encouraged to remove the hardback cover from books, place the pages in their recycling bins and put the cover in the trash.

How to recycle e-readers

E-readers should be treated as e-waste and recycled at your local electronic recycling center. If you do not know where your e-waste recycling center is, start at your local household hazardous waste center. This facility is the most likely place to take unwanted e-waste. If they do not have a program, see if they know who does. Some communities have stand-alone electronic waste disposal centers. In other communities, e-waste must be taken to special collection events held throughout the year. Before you think about selling or gifting your e-reader to someone else, you might check out this article on the challenges consumers face when trying to reuse or repair electronic equipment. Manufacturers are slowly making it harder for you to do what you want with the items you own. They call it protecting their copyright; many others call it an infringement on personal rights. Wherever you fall on this spectrum, it is good information to have.