Can You Recycle Soft And Hard Cover Books? (Full Guide)

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Jean Richardson

Jean Richardson is a lover of knowledge, in all forms. He has spent over 15 years as a high school teacher, instructing students in history, geography, mathematics, and more.

Recycling is becoming more important than ever. Furthermore, if you notice a stack of books you’re no longer using, you may ask yourself whether or not they can be recycled. Well, the rules are not the same for soft and hardcover books. 

Therefore, can you recycle soft and hardcover books successfully, and what are the rules? Continue reading for this answer and more!

Can You Recycle Soft And Hard Cover Books?

Softcover books can easily be recycled as they are considered mixed paper. However, hardcover books are more challenging to recycle and will need the cover and binding removed before recycling. Therefore, the better option is to try and donate or repurpose books. If any book has water damage or mold, it must be discarded in the garbage.

If you’re doing some spring cleaning and wonder whether or not your books make the cut for recycling, keep reading. This article shares whether or not soft and hardcover books can be recycled, how to do it correctly, and more!

Can You Recycle Soft And Hard Cover Books?

For almost every instance, you can recycle softcover books without a problem. 

This is because they are considered mixed paper items and will be successfully recycled and reused. Furthermore, there is also no need to remove the binding. 

However, recycling hardcover books are not so simple. That is why it is so important to know whether or not you can recycle soft and hardcover books and how to do it correctly. 

Soft Cover Books

It is very easy to recycle softcover books – just place them in your curbside recycling bin and call it a day, or take it to your local recycling facility. 

Furthermore, companies consider softcover books as mixed paper goods, and they will successfully recycle and reuse the books into other items, such as brand new books.

Therefore, when recycling softcover books, you do not need to remove the cover or the binding.

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However, remember that softcover books that have gotten wet and turned into an off-white, tan, or brown shade should be thrown out and not recycled. 

Unfortunately, a damaged book turned into a dark shade has no value in the recycling market. 

Hard Cover Books

Unfortunately, the same isn’t so true for hardcover books as hardcover books cannot be recycled. 

This is because the covers are typically made with materials that can’t be recycled, such as cloth or plastic. 

Furthermore, the binding of hardcover books is also far more invasive and thick. This makes it a challenge for consumers and companies alike to remove it.

Therefore, you will need to remove the covering and the bindings to recycle a hardcover book. 

This is because you’ll want nothing but the pages being recycled. Then, it can be used as mixed paper, just as a softcover book.

Additionally, keep in mind that the same rule applies to hardcover papers: they must be in good condition and not have any type of water damage. 

If you do not remove the covering and binding, the hardcover book will need to be tossed in the garbage can, or it can be reused or repurposed. 

How To Dispose Of Soft And Hardcover Books?

How To Dispose Of Soft And Hardcover Books?

Simply put, softcover books can be easily thrown into a recycling bin and forgotten about. 

However, recycling a hardcover book is much more challenging and will require you to remove the cover and binding before being recycled. 

Fortunately, in the end, soft and hardcover books can be recycled successfully. Although recyclable, is there a better option for these beloved pieces of literature?


Better than recycling a soft or hardcover book is to reuse it. But how? Certainly, the first way to reuse a book is to read it one more time before getting rid of it. 

Additionally, once you’re done with the book, it doesn’t have to be destined for the recycling or trash bin. 

Instead, consider one of the following options for reuse:

  • Donate Locally – One of the best things to do with an old book is to donate it. Places like the Salvation Army, Goodwill, and local libraries are always ready to accept donations, including all kinds of books. These places will offer the books at a low cost (or free) to be reused.
  • Donate to a Nonprofit National Charity – Charities such as Reader to Reader collect books and send them globally to areas with less fortunate individuals that simply do not have access to books. 
  • Donate to Soldiers – Supporting the troops is a major thing for some individuals. Sound like you? Then consider donating your old books to a soldier using a program such as Books for Soldiers
  • Donate to Children Programs – Have some old children’s books that need a new home? As long as they’re in good condition, you can send your book to programs like Kids Need to Read.
  • Sell Them – Wanting to make a little bit of cash on your old books? If you have high-quality books you’re looking to get rid of, consider selling them. You can use applications such as OfferUp or local buy/sell/trade sites. 
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This may come as a surprise to some, but books of all types can be repurposed into some really cool items. 

So, if you’re a crafty DIY type of person, you can easily turn those books into useful and fun things. 

Furthermore, here are some great ways to repurpose books and help save the environment.

  • Safe – Keeping your expensive and memorable items secure is important, and nobody will ever suspect your valuables to be hidden inside of a book. The best part is, that this is a really easy way to repurpose an old favorite.
  • Clock – Classy? Sophisticated? Elegant? Yes, all of the above. You can create your own clock using a book and just a few other materials. It looks great in any room, especially an office or classroom.
  • eReader or tablet cover – Out with the old and in with the new. Show your love for books in a brand new light by crafting your old books into a snazzy new cover for your eReader or tablet.
  • Bookends – Books attached to other books and cleverly designed can become instant and awesome bookends (try saying that ten times in a row). Why pay for bookends when you can repurpose some old favorites?
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What Can You Do With Old Encyclopedias?

If you’re looking to get rid of encyclopedias specifically, you might want to consider checking with local schools or libraries to see if they need them. 

If not, try repurposing them in some way. For example, you can construct encyclopedias into many things, such as a classy end table.

Should I Throw Away Old Books?

If the book has water damage or mold, it can’t be recycled. 

Furthermore, at that point, it is okay to throw the book away in a garbage can, however, you shouldn’t do this with books in good condition. 

This is because they can typically be donated, repurposed, sold, or recycled.


All kinds of books can be recycled, but it is more challenging to recycle hardcover books as companies do not accept the covering or binding. Furthermore, those will need to be removed before tossing them in your recycling bin.

Additionally, it is recommended to try and reuse books instead by donating or selling them. You can also craft and repurpose books into many things, from tablet covers to picture frames and more! 


  • Jean Richardson

    Jean Richardson is a lover of knowledge, in all forms. He has spent over 15 years as a high school teacher, instructing students in history, geography, mathematics, and more.

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