How To

Can You Recycle Books?

Mara Franzen

Staff Writer

Mara (They/Them) has accidentally on purpose made their entire life about books and stories. Mara graduated with a B.A in creative writing and theatre and is halfway through an MFA in Creative writing. In addition to writing for Book Riot, Mara also has written for The Independent Book Review, Wargamer, and The Other Half, to name a few. They also work as a fiction editor with The Minison Project. Nearly all of their published articles can be found here.

Sometimes books get to the point where they aren’t really readable anymore. So what do you do next? Can you recycle books? The short answer is yes. The long answer is actually much more complicated. There are a lot of factors, such as where you live and if your book is a paperback or hardcover. Also, depending on the book, it might take some effort on your part.

It’s also possible that you’re looking into recycling an ereader. Technology can be hard to recycle due to tons of different laws surrounding batteries used in the devices. Be sure to double check for the specific requirements in your area, as sometimes there can be differences in policies from city to city.

The world of book recycling is complicated, but I’m here to help guide you through it. When in doubt, be sure to check with your local recycling plant to ensure that you’re doing what’s best for your area.

I would be remiss to not say anything about figuring out other ways to part from old books that don’t involve recycling them. It’s always a good idea to look into selling your used books or finding a place to donate them. Destroying and recycling a book should be one of your last resorts. But if you really think it’s time to look into recycling your books, this is a great place to start.

How to Recycle a Paperback Book

Recycling paperbacks is actually incredibly simple in the U.S.! Just throw them in your recycle bin like any other paper. Before recycling your paperback, however, it’s good practice to flip through and ensure that there is no mold on any of the pages.

Moldy pages can NOT be recycled and should be removed from the book and disposed of in the trash. Once you have confirmed there is no mold, or you have removed the moldy pages, feel free to treat your old paperback like any other paper.

If you live in the UK or Canada, recycling a paperback is a bit more complicated. Paperbacks can’t be placed in your recycling bin, but some recycling centers will take them.

How to Recycle a Hardcover Book

Here’s where a little bit more effort is required. In the U.S., you can only recycle the pages of a hardcover book, not the hardcover itself. Once the pages are separated, either by cutting or ripping them out, they can be disposed of with the rest of your recycling. Unfortunately, the actual hardcover must be thrown in the trash.

As with paperback books, be sure to check for signs of mold before throwing the pages in with the recycling.

Recycling hardcover books outside of the U.S. is a bit more tricky. Most places won’t take them, so be sure to look into best practices for your area.

How to Recycle an eReader

The absolute best practice when it comes to recycling ereaders is to contact your local waste management company to see what you should do. Recycling and discarding of ereaders and other tablets can vary wildly depending on where you live.

Another best practice is to see if the manufacturer of the tablet will recycle it for you. Amazon, Apple, and Samsung will often buy back their tablets or at the very least take them for recycling.

If you purchased an ereader from Barnes & Noble, they may take it from you, but that depends entirely on where you live.

For any other tablets, be sure to double check with the manufacturer to see if they also have any recycling or buy back programs.

Other Options

If you don’t want to go the route of recycling a book for sentimental reasons, or if it’s not available in your area, you can also make tons of art from old books. There are a lot of crafty options out there that will help you turn your old books into stunning works of art.

It Can Be Annoying, But…

According to the University of Southern Indiana, each ton of paper recycled can save three cubic yards of landfill space and 7,000 gallons of water. By putting in the effort to recycle your books, you are making a real impact on the environment!

While the world of book recycling can get complicated it can make a real impact. And who knows? Maybe your recycled books will be used to make your next favorite read!