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Can Hardback Books Be Recycled?

A thud. One more thud.

Did you hear those?

These are the sounds of books being thrown away into trash cans…

What a cruel way to get rid of them, especially from the ecological perspective!

And still, because books get outdated or damaged and people don’t need them anymore, nearly 640,000 tons of them get to landfills in America yearly, according to research on textbook recycling.

How to tackle this problem from a disposal standpoint? Applying the 3 Rs of Environment, of course. Namely, the reduce-reuse-recycle principle.

Can you put books in the recycling?

Yes, you can, but mostly softbound books. While one ton of recycled paper can save 17 trees, 2.5 square meters of landfill space, about 1440 liters of oil, and nearly 26,500 liters of water.

But can hardback books be recycled?

Yes, but actually no. Strictly speaking, not all of them can be recycled without additional preparation beforehand.

Why? Because not all hardcover books are made of 100% paper.

They may contain plastic, leather, cloth, glue, string, and other materials that cannot be recycled together with paper.

Some recyclers don’t want to accept hardback books due to this reason and often exclude them from the list of recyclables.

So what to do with old hardcover books if these items don’t go into your recycling bin?

How to Recycle Hardcover Books in Alternative Ways that Don’t Feel Wrong

Way #1. Make book donations

how to recycle hardback books

Have an unwanted book with a hardcover on your shelf? And it’s in pretty good condition?

You can always take part in donations. Where to donate to:

  • Libraries (check the local ones or consider general or regional international donations organized by the American Library Association)
  • Schools or theaters (ask locally)
  • Literacy programs (BooksForAfrica, TheGlobalBookExchange, The Pajama Program
  • Non-profit charity organizations (SalvationArmy or Goodwill>)
  • Specific societies working on charitable terms (BooksToPrisoners, BooksThroughBars, OperationPaperback), etc.

Haven’t you called your local library yet? Doubt they’ll accept your hardbound book? Try them.

Have a closer look at some other book dotation programs that may be a great solution to recycling your old hardback books from the reuse standpoint.

Such “giveaways” can breathe new life into your hardcovers.

Way #2. Enjoy bookcrossing

how to recycle hardback books

Yay, another book from a stranger! With a note inside!

Excited to grab one and make someone else share the same feelings?

Try 3 basic types of book exchange offered on the following websites:

  • BookCrossing – release your hardcover book “into the wild” for a stranger to pick it up.
  • Bookmooch – a community that will help you exchange your used books with hard covers.
  • PaperBackSwap – online book swapping club.

You may also google location-specific services for book swaps and places for pick-ups. For example, there’s one in L.A. called Re-Book It.

Way #3. Resell or rent out your books

resell or rent out your books

Got piles of old dusty textbooks or hardback copies that were left as reminders of your happy times at school or college?

Services like BooksRun or BookScouter, for example, give you vast opportunities to sell & rent hardback books. And textbooks, in particular.

Consider some dedicated platforms for textbooks only:

  • CampusBookRentals
  • Cash4Books
  • ECampus
  • BlueRocketBooks
  • BookByte

Another variant for recycling hardcovers is selling them to second-hand bookstores.

If none of the above options is to your liking, you’ve got your Facebook or Instagram accounts, LetGo, Craig’s List, etc.

And where would this list be without a yard sale, after all?

Not interested? Then continue reading to discover one more hack on how to recycle hardcover books.

Way #4. Use hardcovers in a DIY project

use hardcovers in a DIY project

Are there missing pages? Or falling off covers?

Out-of-date educational content and damaged goods, when it comes to hardbound books, can be repurposed in your DIY project. The benefits of books go beyond stress relief and better memory in this case.

You can start with the simplest things and proceed to the most advanced do-it-yourself crafts. But you do want to make something truly useful, right? Why not create a DIY book clock, for instance?

DIY clock

Or perhaps, anything from the smart uses for dusty old books?

Some other ideas for repurposing hardbound books are:

  • Art on pages (draw, paint, or craft on book pages)
  • Zipper book clutches or purses
  • Bookmarks
  • Decorations (for Christmas, for babies, for your pet, for anyone!)
  • Gift pouches, etc.

Do you have a special bond with Pinterest? Dive into the most incredible 32 DIY ideas to reuse hardcovers and paperbacks.

Or go nuts and grow a “tiny garden” inside your hardback book!
book garden

So Сan Hardcover Books Be Recycled?

You might feel that you don’t need to recycle books at all and let the sleeping dog lie in peace in your bookcase, garage, or attic. Or under your bed… (Where else do you keep books?)

Don’t even dare to throw them into the landfill. The spirits of these books will hunt you down and kick your polluter’s ass. Joking, of course.

But seriously – use eco-friendly ways to get rid of your “old pals”.

Or maybe, you’ve got some magic self-recyclable books?

Unfortunately, such ones don’t exist (yet). Wait, there was one! A self-destructing book by James Patterson. But what to do about heaps of other books, particularly those with hardcovers?

Can hardback books be recycled?

Sure, but in a more re-purposeful way. Use at least one of the alternatives to recycle hardback books that we mentioned above and their spirits won’t bother you, we promise.


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