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  • Writer's pictureE-Lam

Can you recycle your old books ?

Well, yes and no.

There are many different types of books that are manufactured in different ways. Softback books are usually covered with a thin, glossy plastic film on the cover when they are manufactured at the printing facility. This is both to protect the paper cover and to make the book look more attractive rather than have a flat, paper finish. This plastic material is non-recyclable due to its plastic properties so it the covers of books need to be removed, and the paper content then can go for recycling. Book covers sometimes have glitter with a plastic film on top - again, not recyclable either. Book binding also includes adhesive / glue and string which binds the pages of books together – glue and adhesive does not dissolve even if it is water based, so non-recyclable.

Old books can be recycled – in other words – shared with other readers. Putting them in your household recycling can cause problems for the recycling centre due to the glue, string and other materials that hold them together, especially hardback books because a recycle centre can’t always recycle them considering that they are glued together. Peeling off the front covers and guillotining the glued spine off the books would simply be too time consuming for them. If you put your book into the recycle centre bin, there is every chance it will end up in the landfill. Some recycle centres do have a drop and swap facility in the centre where you can leave your old used books and possibly swap them for other books.

Ink on the paper can be removed by an industrial process and the paper then recycled. Some companies are in the business of buying up old stock, removing the covers, re-binding and reprinting and issuing books again which seems to be the most sustainable method for the moment, but unfortunately these companies are few and far between. One such company in France, Nordprint is using this method of rebinding and reissuing books.

So if you are an avid reader, consider sharing your books with your family, friends, neighbours to keep books in circulation for as long as possible to avoid going to landfill. Keep your books in mint condition, repair if you can, you can use E-Lam Cotton Book repair tape and Paper tape to repair any damage.

In the meantime, listen to the wind and the rain, and curl up with a good book. Don’t forget to support your local libraries and bookshops, and donate books where possible to libraries, schools, hospitals, and hospices. .

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