By Hanna Talitha

Trashes around the environment annoy us – a lot. 

The presence of trash causes visual pollution, produces unpleasant odors, and also hygiene concerns. 

This certainly sucks as the world is getting more and more polluted – especially by paper trash.

Books that have been treasured as vessels of knowledge, stories, and ideas have turned out to contribute significantly to the amount of paper waste worldwide. Yearly, 640,000 tons of waste are identified to come from thrown-out books filling up landfills. 

Not only does produce countless waste, but the publishing of books has also become a very resource-intensive industry sector –  sacrificing millions of trees and using an excessive amount of energy, water, and other resources – which leaves a trail of destructive damage such as deforestation. 

Some people might wonder, “Why bother recycling when it’s easier to just throw stuff away or burn them?”. However, with the downside of publishing books as mentioned is in mind and as technology and digital media gain an audience, it is crucial to recognize the importance of recycling books – i.e. the importance of recycling millions of books that are thrown away as people utilize digital books or Kindles instead. 

Recycling books doesn’t necessarily mean recycling paper in books to make recycled paper by throwing away books to the recycling sector – even though yes, it is one of the ways. However, recycling books also involves the reuse of books through reselling or donating books.

“A book is a gift you can open again and again”

Garrison Keillor, American author

In this article, we will explore the reasons and benefits of recycling books. 

Why is recycling books of paramount importance?

  1. Reduces deforestation 

It’s not just agricultural and industrial expansion that causes deforestation. 

Books have become a profiting-for-youth-and-academic cause of deforestation in our world. 

The production of new books with virgin paper necessitates the cutting down of trees to produce paper, contributing to deforestation as well as the destruction of habitat. However, by recycling books, this demand for new paper could be reduced hence conserving precious forests.

Through research, it is found that recycling a ton of paper could save 17 thirty-foot tall trees – think of all the trees that can be saved by the recycling of 640,000 tons of paper waste that come from thrown-away books every year. 

  1. Conserves energy 

Recycling saves energy. 

Recycling, in general, consumes less energy than the production of virgin materials as recycling allows us to skip some steps of manufacturing new products.

This applies same to the recycling of books. Recycling books costs less energy than the making of new books from virgin paper which includes cutting down trees, transporting, and production. 

The recycling of 1700 books is identified to be able to save 4000-kilowatt energy – assuming the book to be an average paperback book with 400 pages. With that being said, imagine the environmental benefit that could be done by recycling 320 million books that ended up in landfills.  

  1. Reduces carbon footprint

Almost everything leaves a carbon footprint, and unfortunately publishing books is one of them. 

It is found in a study from Sweden that a 360-page hardback book emits 1.2kgCO2eq in its life cycle. Even though the carbon footprint is classified to have a low impact, think about the damage it causes by the existence of hundreds of millions of books.

Recycling – through reselling and donating books -, on the other hand, could resolve this issue by simply reducing the demand for new books itself. 

More books recycled causes fewer new books to be bought which ends with fewer books being published and less carbon footprint would be left.

  1. Conserves resources

Books utilize a lot of resources.

Not only wood to create its paper, but it also requires an excessive amount of water, ink, and oil. 

With only a ton of paper – which books have a lot of these – being recycled, it could save approximately 7000 gallons of water and 380 gallons of oil

Multiply this amount by 640,000 tons of paper from thrown-away books in landfills every year and picture the waste of resources we’ve been all doing. 

  1. Reduces landfill waste

With thousands of tons of paper waste from books being thrown away at landfills, it certainly consumes landfills’ space – big enough that it may cause the expansion of landfills which are expensive and not good for the environment. 

Recycling could help this issue by increasing the lifespan of landfills.

By recycling books, paper waste produced from thrown-away books won’t be stored in landfills. Approximately a ton of paper could save 3 cubic yards of landfill. 

  1. Preserves knowledge 

Books enfold a wealth of information and stories. 

Through recycling, we could ensure that the knowledge encapsulated in books will continue to be accessible to future generations. 

Thousands of libraries and educational institutes rely on recycled books given to them to expand their collection and provide additional resources for their students and readers. 
Recycling by reselling and donating books would also ensure that those books would be accessible to everyone, despite social and economic boundaries. 

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