What to do with Old Books

From textbooks to classic fairy tales, an estimated 320 million books are sent to the landfill annually. This totals to 640,000 tons of books that can be passed onto someone else, upcycled, or recycled. In fact, the 2009 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) report indicates that only a third of books in the waste stream are recovered.

What can we do to address this situation and increase the percent of waste diversion?


Bring your gently used books to a local local library or a charity like the Salvation Army and Goodwill. Some locations also accept magazine donations, too.

Sell them

Purchasing books can quickly add up. One way to continue your love for books is to resell the ones you are ready to let go.

Make a “Free Books” box

Just like the Little Free Library in the Rochester community, book sharing houses promote community bonding and the reuse of books.

Exchange with a friend

Like our annual “Blind Date with a Book” event, you can host a get-together where friends can exchange books and have interesting discussions about what they’ve read. Plus, the best part is trying to match the book to its next owner.

Arts & Crafts

There are many DIY projects that can take books and turn them into something completely different.

  • Picture Frame: Nothing captures your memories than a photo and lines from your favorite book.
  • Gift Tags: Take your gift wrapping to the next level with unique gift tags.
  • Envelopes: The receiver of the letter will be intrigued and impressed by your creativity with these one-of-the-kind envelopes.

For more ideas, you can simply search the web or visit this book riot.


If the book has reached its end and cannot be enjoyed anymore, one way of avoiding the landfill is to recycle the paper. Books are usually made with good quality fibers that can be broken down and used to create other products like thin paper. Although hard covered books are not recyclable in Monroe County, the paper inside of the book can be ripped out and recycled.
Be sure to check with your municipality first.

Looking for some new book ideas? Our previous articles can provide a few suggestions including non-fiction global warming and other eco-fiction books.


Written by Emily Su, Class of 2022.

Photo Credit: Training Zone

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