By Hanna Talitha

Dear readers, 

In a world where stories have the power to transport us to unimaginable realms, where knowledge lies linked upon every page, books have been a very important aspect of all of our lives – including me and you. 

 “There is more treasure in books than in all the pirate’s loot on Treasure Island.” – Walt Disney, an American producer and the pioneer of the American international-successful animation industry

But what happens when those books have served their purpose for us? – When they have been read and when they have been stored in your shelf or storage rooms unopened for years. 

One might think to just throw them away, but what if I tell you that throwing books away has been creating a trail of destructive damages – including deforestation, a waste of resources, and producing greenhouse gases? 

So let us all write a new chapter, one of giving books a second life in the face of sustainability and resourcefulness. 

Giving books a second life can be done through recycling – not only by recycling papers inside the book to create recycled papers but also by recycling the whole book by donating and reselling. 

However, as this is a new chapter indeed, the future holds several potential innovations, opportunities, and challenges. 

Here’s an overview of what the future might hold: 

The Future of Book Recycling

| Innovations

  1. Automated book sorting system (AI-Generated) 

The traditional book-sorting process is very time-consuming. Innovations in robotics and artificial intelligence are currently being explored to develop this automated sorting system. 

With the use of advanced software and sorting equipment, this system will help a lot in book recycling by being able to categorize books efficiently based on factors like genre, condition, and recyclability. 

  1. Blockchain tracking 

Blockchain tracking, in general, refers to the use of blockchain technology to provide a transparent and traceable record of transactions and movements of goods. 

In the book recycling industry, this technology offers the potential of creating a transparent and traceable supply chain for book recycling by monitoring and tracking the journey of recycled books from the collection process to sorting and distribution. 

In each step of the journey, this technology will record a transaction that includes relevant information. For example, in the collection process, it will record the collection location, date, and the unique characteristics of the book; in the sorting process, it will record the details of the type of book, its condition, and the recycling processes that should be applied; and in the distribution process, it will store information about where the recycled books end up to be and how they are reused. 

This tracking system will be very useful for providing transparency, accountability, and quality control. 

  1. High-speed book scanning technology 

This technology would help in the book recycling industry by allowing the digitization of books

Recycled books would go through this process and the technology would scan and create an online version of the book, reducing the need for physical materials while preserving the content. 

  1. Laser technology 

Laser technology is currently being explored to develop a machine that could remove ink from paper selectively without damaging the paper fiber as a means to recycle paper books more effectively. 

| Opportunities

  1. Sustainable resource recovery

Recycling books offer the opportunity for resource saving. 

Through book recycling – efficiently extracting and repurposing materials such as paper and cardboard -, the demand for virgin material and the production of waste will be minimized – saving so much more resources including trees, water, and energy.   

These saved resources then can be used in the production of other products, also contributing to a more sustainable economy. 

  1. Education and Literacy

Recycling books, through donating and reselling, provides the opportunity to promote education and literacy in so many areas, especially in underprivileged communities. 

Through donating books to libraries and educational institutions, the expansion of book collections could be achieved, hence providing more access to literacy resources and promoting a love for learning and knowledge sharing.  

  1. Workforce 

By creating and expanding the book recycling industry, many people would need to be involved. This situation would create up to thousands of open workforces for local communities and drive innovations in the waste management sector. 

| Challenges

  1. Contamination of books

Even though books are mostly made up of paper which is recyclable, books often also contain non-recyclable materials. This includes adhesives, bindings, or laminations that pose challenges to the recycling process, requiring advanced separation technology. 

Contamination from other materials such as foods, liquids, and stains further complicates the recycling process and limits the ability of the book to be donated or resold. 

  1. Awareness and participation

Awareness and participation are two different things that each pose different challenges in the book recycling sector. 

Many people may have been aware of recycling – usually taught in education institutions-, but many may have been not aware of recycling books in particular. 

Raising awareness of book recycling might be slightly challenging as it is not usually highlighted and not many people have spoken up on this particular issue.

Participation, however, is far more challenging to be promoted. 

One may be aware of recycling books but it doesn’t mean that they will act on what they are aware of and participate. One may know its importance but they might ignore the impacts as they might think that it would be easier to just throw away books rather than participate.

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