Can books be recycled? Your Guide


Sometimes books get to the point where they’re not really readable anymore. So what do you do next? Can books be recycled? The short answer is yes. The long answer is actually much more complicated. There are lots of factors, like where you live and whether your book is a paperback or hardback. Also, depending on the book, it may take some effort on your part.

You may also be considering recycling an eReader. Technology can be difficult to recycle due to the tons of different laws surrounding the batteries used in devices. Be sure to check the specific requirements for your region, as sometimes there can be differences in policies from city to city.

The world of book recycling is complicated, but I’m here to guide you. If in doubt, be sure to check with your local recycling plant to ensure you are doing what is best for your area.

I would be remiss if I didn’t say anything about finding other ways to dispose of old books that don’t involve recycling them. It’s always a good idea to look to sell your used books or find 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 consider recycling your books, this is a great place to start.

How to Recycle a Paperback

Recycling paperbacks is actually incredibly simple in the United States! Just throw them in your trash like any other paper. Before recycling your paperback, however, it’s a good idea to flip through and make sure there’s no mold on any of the pages.

Moldy pages CANNOT be recycled and should be removed from the book and discarded in the trash. Once you’ve confirmed there’s no mold or removed 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 cannot be placed in your recycling bin, but some recycling centers will take them.

How to Recycle a Hardcover Book

Here is where a little more effort is needed. In the United States, you can only recycle the pages of a hardcover book, not the hardcover itself. Once the pages are separated, either by cutting them or tearing them off, they can be discarded with the rest of your recycling. Unfortunately, the actual hardcover has to be thrown in the trash.

As with paperbacks, be sure to check for signs of mold before throwing the pages away with recycling.

Recycling hardcover books outside of the United States is a little trickier. Most places won’t accept them, so be sure to check out the best practices for your area.

How to recycle an e-reader

The absolute best practice for recycling eReaders is to contact your local waste management company to see what you should do. Recycling and disposal of e-readers and other tablets can vary greatly depending on where you live.

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

If you bought an e-reader from Barnes & Noble, they can take it from you, but that entirely depends on where you live.

For all other tablets, be sure to check with the manufacturer to see if they have recycling or buy-back programs as well.

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 create tons of artwork from old books. There are many nifty options that will help you turn your old books into stunning works of art.

It can be boring, but…

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

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


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