9 Easy Ways to Recycle Books

Not sure what to do with your used books? Don’t worry – there are lots of easy ways to recycle books! Not only is recycling books good for the environment, but it gives other readers a chance to enjoy those books (often for free or at discounted prices).

easy ways to recycle books

Can you recycle books?

Absolutely – and you should! There’s no reason to throw a book away. Too many books end up in landfills every year – let’s try to avoid that!

There are lots of ways to recycle books so they can be enjoyed again. Plus, it’s much better for the environment.

(Additionally, if you receive ARC books from publishers, you can’t legally sell them – so recycling them – in the form of donation – is the best option.)

Whether you choose to donate your books, swap them, sell them, or recycle them so the materials can be reused, it’s worth the small amount of effort it takes.

How to Recycle Books

Here are nine ideas for what to do with your old or used books – both hardcover books and paperback books – when you no longer want to keep them!

1. Library Donations

Most libraries in the U.S. hold book sales where they sell used and vintage books (either ex-library and donated by patrons) at very low prices.

These sales help raise money for library foundations that keep the library running and support reading and literacy programs.

So, if you have extra books you no longer want, be sure to donate them to your local library for their next book sale! This is an easy way to support libraries and your community.

2. Thrift Store Donations (Goodwill, Value Village, etc.)

You can also donate books to a local charity or secondhand shop! Goodwill, Value Village, The Salvation Army, etc. are all great places to donate to.

Many of these places also have donation drop boxes to make donation even easier.

3. Little Free Libraries

Little Free Libraries are like mini community kiosks where you can take a book in exchange for leaving one behind. Essentially, it’s a one-for-one book swap without any shipping (or payment) required.

You can leave any books you no longer want in a local Little Free Library (and you can take some in exchange, if you choose!). Check this map to see if there are any LFLs near you.

4. Book Swaps

There are Facebook groups you can join to swap books with other people in the United States (and sometimes elsewhere)!

All you need to do is post a photo of the books you want to swap. Feel free to share a list of books you’re looking for in return, or just say you’re open to seeing what people have.

Then, hopefully people will comment with which books they’re interested and what they have to swap.

If you decide to swap with them, you’ll trade addresses via private message. (You can use a P.O. Box if you’re worried about sharing your address).

Use USPS Media Mail to ship your book(s) (it’s the cheapest way), and wait for your new secondhand book(s) to arrive!

To find these book swap groups, search ‘Groups’ on Facebook for the words ‘Book Swap’ or ‘Book Sales’. Find the groups with a lot of members, and start there! Be sure to read each group’s rules before posting.

You can also host a local book swap in your neighborhood or with a group of friends. Everybody just brings a bag of books and trades. It’s a win for everybody!

stack of secondhand books in a canvas tote bag

5. Donate Children’s Books to Local Schools

If you have children’s books that you’re no longer using, contact your local schools and ask if they accept book donations.

Schools are always looking for more books for their classrooms and libraries!

6. Book Donation Boxes

Better World Books has book donation boxes scattered around the United States.

They are a for-profit company that resells the books they receive. They do also donate a portion of their profits to literacy-related charities.

Just search this page to find the donation box location nearest you.

7. Give Books to Friends & Family

Maybe someone you know would enjoy some of your extra books! Ask around to see if any of your friends or family would be interested.

Or, surprise them with a gifted book you think they might like! There’s nothing better than recommending a book to someone that they end up loving. 🙂

8. Sell Your Books

If you want to make a little extra cash while also recycling your books, you can always sell them!

I wrote this post all about the best places to find secondhand books – many are also perfect places to sell your gently-used books.

You can take them to Half-Price Books to resell, or sell them through an online platform like Pango Books or Thriftbooks. If you have vintage books, you can sell them on Etsy!

If you do choose to sell your books online, be sure to use USPS Media Mail to ship them. It’s the cheapest option!

You can also hold a yard sale or garage sale to sell your books. You’ll probably have to sell them at lower prices than if you sold them online, but you won’t have to deal with shipping them, either.

If your books have stickers on them (like price tags or book club stickers), here’s the best way to remove stickers from book covers!

used books on a white bookshelf

9. Curbside Recycling & Paper Recycling Centers

If you have heavily-used or old books that are in poor shape (i.e. unreadable), consider recycling them at a nearby recycling center.

Depending on the condition, the materials can often be re-used for another purpose, so they don’t go to waste!

Additionally, many curbside recycling programs will accept paperback books. Just check with your local one to make sure. (Many county programs will have a website, but if yours doesn’t, there should be a phone number to call).

Hardcover books likely won’t be accepted, unless you remove the cover and binding (and just recycle the pages as mixed paper).

Recycling books is easy to do, and it prevents them from ending up in landfills. I hope this list helps you figure out which option works best for you!

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2 thoughts on “9 Easy Ways to Recycle Books”

  1. Don’t donate books that are old and dirty. Look at the book. Would you pay a quarter for that book? If not no one else is going to either. Donation places are a dumping ground for old books , It is OK to throw away or recycle old book. Those place then have to play someone to haul away .

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