What To Do With Old Books Instead Of Throwing Them Away

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Looking for ways to recycle your books instead of throwing them away? If you are wondering what to do with old books, I have a few tips.  From donating books to libraries to making upcycled book crafts, learn how to cull books instead of throwing them away.  The written word is precious and does not belong in landfills!  Keep reading for a few donation tips and other helpful recycling resources.  Throwing out books is NOT a good way to deal with them!

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Eco Friendly Decluttering: What to do with old books


What happens to old books that aren’t sold?

Do you remember when Borders Bookstores started having financial trouble and they began closing stores? There was a huge backlash against the company when it was discovered that they intended to tear the covers off of perfectly good, brand new books and throw them away.

Add in libraries and publishers to the mix and the number of books being tossed in the trash every year gets rather staggering. This article from National Public Radio takes a rather in-depth look at library system and it’s disposal policies.

Approximately 30 TO 40 PERCENT of books that are shipped to bookstores for sale are returned to the publisher every year.   Between 65 and 95 percent of them are pulped (AKA destroyed by publishers). That is a HUGE number of books that get trashed, simply because it is cheaper and easier than finding alternative solutions.

Like this post about ways to repurpose old books?  Here are more eco friendly decluttering tips:

  • Best Tips for Decluttering Your Child’s Room Want to know the best tips for decluttering your child’s room? Keep reading and see what I have learned over the years! 
  • What Can You Do With Old Hangers? Have you been decluttering the house this month?  Have you cleaned your closet and realized you have way too many hangers?  What can you do with them?  I thought I would share a few ways to repurpose hangers.
  • How to Recycle Household Items That are Creating Clutter in Your House! Wondering where to start decluttering your home? First, learn how to recycle household items and reduce your carbon footprint as you clean! 

Eco Friendly Decluttering: What to do with old books

Is there such a thing as too many books?  

Books are the one thing that I don’t mind spending money on,  however,  after a while the bookshelves just get a bit too full. As  I look around my house deciding what areas to declutter, I find myself wondering what to do with my overflowing book cases. There are only so many shelves on them, right? But I would never throw one away…that just seems like sacrilege!

As we strive to reduce clutter in our lives, we need to take a long, hard look at how many books is too many.  But, if you have too many, how do you decide which ones to keep or get rid of?  Here are a few easy tips to help you thin the collection this month.

  • Series don’t have to stay together.  If there is only one story of an 8 book series that you really like, ditch the others. 
  • Copy recipes from cookbooks if you only use one or two.  No need to keep the whole thing if you don’t use most of the recipes.
  • Don’t keep old textbooks.  They might remind you of your glory days as a college student, however, do you really need them?  If you don’t use those textbooks in your current profession, recycle them, or donate them.
  • If you finished it, ask yourself if you will read it again.  Do you really want to read the biography of your favorite sports figure more than once?
  • Transition to an e-reader.  You can get many of the classics for FREE as an e-book.  Ditch the paper version if you really think you will read them again. E-readers can be green alternatives to actual paper books. 

pile of books being thrown in the trash

Should  you throw away books?

Throwing away books is a crime, in my opinion!  There is no reason for a beautiful story to end up rotting in a landfill somewhere.  If you absolutely have no way to re-home or reuse old books, at least recycle them.

Paperbacks can be recycled, binding included.  However, if it has gotten wet or the pages have turned brown, they should be thrown  in the trash.  You can’t recycle book pages that have aged to the point where they are turning tan.  

How to Re-purpose Old Books

Eco Friendly Decluttering: What to do with old books

While you cannot control the fate of overstock and old textbooks, you CAN make sure  your own books don’t end up clogging the landfills. Wondering what to do with books after reading them? Here are some tips for decluttering books that might help you find new homes for them. 

Sell your old books on eBay. 

It’s easy to do…all you need to do is set up an account. Once you have that, enter the ISBN number of the book you want to get rid of and all of the details about it will pop right up! This is a great way to make a little bit of money if you have some best sellers that need a new home.

Donate them to thrift stores or Goodwill. 

You can use this as a tax write-off so make sure to get a receipt or proof of donation to include with your tax paperwork. You can also donate to places like local hospitals, homeless shelters, adult literacy programs, and nursing homes.  

Sell them at consignment sales. 

I used to do this with the kid’s books quite a bit. Our sales have a ‘bag of books’ section where you can put 5 or 10 similar books into one big zip lock bag and price it as one piece. Saves lots of time!

Donate your old books to someone on Freecycle. 

This is a great website for trading with others in your local community! You donate books and maybe someone will donate some garden stuff you need this spring!

Eco Friendly Decluttering: What to do with old books

Find a second-hand bookstore in your area.  

Wondering what to do with old books that can earn you new books? Most second-hand book stores will give you credit for your donations that can be used towards purchasing other books in the store.

Use them for a social good project.

Encourage  your library to get involved in the Better World Books program.  They work with over 3000 libraries across the US, Canada, and the UK to keep used library books out of landfills and put them in the hands of people who need them. There is no charge for participation in this group.

Host a neighborhood book swap.

This is a great way to get to know your neighbors while finding some great new reading material at the same time!

Ask about book donation programs:

If you have a lot of children’s books, talk to your local library or school media center and see if they are interested in accepting them as a donation. Maybe your elementary school could hold a fundraiser with all the donated books?
Eco Friendly Decluttering: What to do with old books

Do a random act of kindness.

Join Bookcrossing.com and make someone’s day a little brighter with a random act of kindness!  All you do is slap a label on the inside of your book, leave it in a public place to be picked up by random strangers, and track it’s progress online! How far will YOUR favorite mystery book go?

Look for libraries in need.

Check out Adopt A Library They have a long list of libraries in schools, on American Indian reservations and even in prisons that need all types of books.

Make Book Crafts

There are tons of crafts that turn your old books into new creations.  Here are a few that caught my eye:

woman in book store buying new books

Keep Used Books Out Of The Trash!

While it is certainly understandable that libraries and retail stores want to keep their stock fresh and offer the most current titles, there are a lot of people in this world who would love to be given the chance to read our ‘castoffs’! 

Try as I might, I could not find a single organization, petition, or environmental group working towards getting publishers to stop pulping brand new books. You can read more about the industry’s dirty little secret and if you find any information on how the public can help put an end to this policy, PLEASE let me know! Have any other tips on what to do with excess books?




  1. We all love to read & I cannot imagine tossing a book. There is always someone who wants it when you are done with it. We donate a lot to our local library or offer on Freecycle.
  2. Wow I have never thought about what happens to unwanted new books!!

    I recently sold alot of our over flow of books on Craig's List.
  3. I realized they did this but not to this extent. I always trade my books in or donate them to the library.
  4. I know a lot of bookworms who would cry at the thought of those books being trashed!
  5. What a shame. I never knew this. We are avid readers as well and usually we donate our books to goodwill. I have done freecycle as well. But I totally want to try that Book Crossing! I bookmarked it! We have never thrown a book away that I know of.

    This is definitely something to think about.
  6. everydayproducts andmore says
    Wow i did not know that about the books being returned what a waste and that's great that you get to help out at your kids school i did that when my son was in the first grade it's so rewarding I know when i use to order my books from the book fair i couldn't wait for them to arrive.
  7. Those are all great ideas. Thanks for sharing. We usually sell ours at our garage sale, and then donate what's left to a local thrift store that helps battered women.
  8. The thrift stores usually dispose of the book sin the dumpster. I was told that the receive way more than they'll ever sell, so they throw them out. Please confirm with your local ones, and keep that in mind. Paperbackswap.Com helps you trade your books.
  9. I have never heard of bookcrossing before!! I know when we travel I try to find places to leave books after I read them on the trip instead of flying them back with me. I had no idea that many books get sent back.
  10. These are great ideas. I have so many books that I'll probably never read again. Love it!
  11. Those are all good ideas. I like to try to get rid of my old books on PaperBackSwap.com. I've also recycled them in our recycling bin. Paperbacks can just be tossed in, as is. Hardbacks need to have the covers taken off. The covers can then be used for crafts or whatnot. Even the paper inside could be used for paper crafts.
  12. My mom worked for a different national bookstore chain years ago and the publishers had them tear off the covers and toss the rest of the book. Employees could take them home if they wanted to, so I had a LOT of books with missing covers. It is hard to toss books out for me as I love them so much. But, some books DO reach the end of their life. Although, I did see someone selling cupcake holders (need another liner inside) that were made from the pages of books. THAT could be something cool to do.
  13. Rebecca Foster-Faith says
    My library operates a small used bookstore where many books are super cheap and they have a free cart they put out when the store is closed (but the library is open). However they DO NOT WANT old textbooks. If you give a charity something they cannot use- all you are doing is sticking them with the disposal costs (foodbanks have this problem with expired goods all the time - people just drop off without checking dates). Don't take money away from charity! Be thoughtful with your donations!

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