Can I Recycle Books? – Green and Grumpy

Old books can be recycled

Paper has value as a recyclable item, and books are no exception, so yes, you can recycle books, however, you may not be allowed to put them in your curbside recycling. Not to worry, there are plenty of other ways to recycle old books.

Gently Used Books Can Be Reused

First of all, if your books are still in decent shape, please consider donating or selling them to someone who might want them. Some retailers like Half Price Books will give you cash on the spot for used books, CDs, vinyl records and more. It probably won’t be much, but you’ll make a little money and they will keep the books out of the landfill. Other used bookstores may offer store credit.

Used book sales also help support many libraries and charitable organizations. If you ask around, you will likely find organizations that will be happy to take your books to sell as fundraisers. Resale centers and thrift stores like Goodwill will also take used books and resell them.

How to Recycle Old Books

When your books are really tattered and falling apart, then it’s time to recycle them. Your local recycling program may not want them in the curbside though, even if paper is accepted, so you should check and verify whether books are acceptable before you throw them in the curbside bin. However, moldy books are never recyclable, please don’t put moldy paper products in recycling bins. Moldy books can be composted though.

Why can’t I put books in with other paper in my curbside bin?

If your program accepts paper but asks you not to put books in your personal recycling bin, it may be because books tend to be heavy and won’t act like other paper and cardboard in the sorting process. Many sorting centers use a bouncing process and a conveyer belt system to “float” lighter items like paper to the top where they can be skimmed off. Books likely won’t “bounce” properly and will end up in the wrong place. There could be other reasons as well. The point is, if you are asked to leave books out, please leave them out.

Help Local Schools and Nonprofits with Your Paper Recycling

Here’s another great reason to take your books and other paper products to a dedicated paper recycling bin even if your curbside program accepts them: Paper recyclers will pay organizations to collect good, clean paper products for recycling.

By dropping off your paper at one of these bins that are located in many school, park, church or nonprofit parking lots, you are helping them raise money for their organization.

Finding Paper Recycling Bins

If you keep your eyes peeled for these paper recycling bins, which usually look like colorful dumpsters, you will likely find one not far from your home unless you live in a very remote area. Your city may also have a paper recycling drop-off at or near your solid waste department offices or transfer station.

If you want to do an online search for paper recycling bins and dumpsters, there are a few places you can check:

  • Your local recycling program’s website is the first place to start. They should have the recycling rules for your community and will hopefully list paper recycling drop-off locations.
  • You can also do a Google search for “paper recycling bins near me” and see what comes up. We have two main companies locally that partner with schools and other organizations to provide recycling dumpsters and haul away the materials collected. They each provide maps of their drop-off bin locations.
  • You can also check the search function on Earth911.com, although be aware that it may not be as accurate and updated as your local info.

Do I need to remove covers from hardback books?

Maybe, maybe not. Some programs will ask you to remove the covers and leave them out, others don’t care if you leave them on. The paper recycling bins/dumpsters often have instructions and images listed on the side of the bin itself listing what you can and cannot put in the bin.

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