Can You Recycle Textbooks? (Don’t Make These Mistakes)

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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.

The use of textbooks is a divisive topic for most students. Some love the ability to read words on a printed page and the ability to resell their books when they are done with them, others prefer digital books for their greater convenience and affordability.

However, one question many have when they are done with their own is whether or not textbooks can even be recycled at all. For this answer, continue reading!

Can You Recycle Textbooks?

As a general rule, there are a variety of ways you can repurpose and give new life to a used textbook, of which recycling is just one possible solution. However, their recyclability will depend on factors such as a local municipality’s recycling capabilities and what materials the textbook is made of.

So, now that we know that textbooks can be recycled, let’s look at some of the details of how this process works. Be sure to read below for more information on what materials your book may be comprised of, how to properly recycle your textbook, and more!

How To Recycle Textbooks

Recycling in some communities is as easy as chucking materials such as newspapers or juice cartons into a bin and waiting for them to be collected. 

Unfortunately, for most areas, recycling textbooks won’t be as easy of a task. To find out if you can recycle textbooks where you live, try the following.

1.  Make sure your textbook is worthless: Even if your textbook has been written in or is an older edition, it may still be worth money. Check its trade-in value at your local bookstore or online.

If it isn’t worth much, it may still be worth donating to a local charity if it’s in good enough shape, if not, it is probably time to look into recycling your textbook.

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2. Check online to see if recycling is available in your area: See if your local municipality offers recycling services and if so, what materials are accepted. 

If a mixed paper is accepted, there is a good chance that you will be able to recycle your textbook.

3. Prepare your book to be recycled: Some locales may require you to strip hardcover books of their covers and spine. 

Additionally, remove any items such as plastic jackets from your textbook before recycling, failing to do so could cause your textbook to end up in the trash.

4. Keep it dry: Wet paper is ruined for recycling purposes, for this reason alone, be sure to keep your textbooks dry during the entire process!

And that’s it! Your book is now ready to be recycled at your earliest convenience. 

However, some people might still have questions about if their book is made of materials that are acceptable for recycling. 

Be sure to read on if you are unsure what material your textbook might be made of.

What Materials Are Textbooks Made Of?

What Materials Are Textbooks Made Of?

In ancient times, books were first compiled with pages made up of materials as different as cloth, papyrus, animal skins, or palm leaves

The pages of today’s textbooks aren’t nearly as rustic. However, that doesn’t make them necessarily recyclable. 

With some covers made of leather, fabric, or plastic, many textbooks are not easily recycled today.

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In general, if your textbook has a hardcover, you should probably remove the spine and covers as this is where most of the unrecyclable material will be. 

Furthermore, some hardcover books may contain plastic or tape in their bindings as well.

Additionally, groups of individual pages will be fine to recycle, and the inks should cause no problems, even if the pages appear to be glossy.

When preparing your book to be recycled, be sure to get rid of any materials that aren’t paper-based and dispose of such pieces separately. 

Are Textbooks Biodegradable?

As mentioned above, textbooks can be made of many different materials, such as plastic and wax, some of which may take hundreds of years to biodegrade. 

Therefore, composting your books isn’t recommended instead, recycling or otherwise disposing of them will work. 

How To Reuse Or Upcycle Textbooks?

If your textbook is still in good condition, and you think someone else may find a use for it, you have a lot of good options for ways to reuse or upcycle it.

  • Donate your textbook: Donating your textbook isn’t just an environmentally friendly thing to do, it can also help the less fortunate. 

By donating to a charity such as the Salvation Army or Goodwill, you’re making your textbook available to a community for which it may not normally be accessible.

Not only will you be supporting a local charity, but your community as well.

  • DIY with your textbook: Have a book that has become, for whatever reason, unusable? Then it might be time to consider using it as source material for your next DIY project. 
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Repurposed textbooks can be incorporated into many fun projects including, picture frames, secret boxes, and even floating bookshelves themselves. 

  • Sell your textbook: This option was touched on previously but deserves special mention here. 

Selling your textbook can bring in a tidy sum at the end of the semester, especially if you have a recent edition textbook in a popular course. 

Furthermore, if you can’t sell your book locally to a bookstore or fellow student, try looking online. 

To do so, you’ll simply need some basic information such as the title, ISBN, edition, and the condition of the textbook.

Furthermore, when considering selling your textbooks online, remember that some places will pay for your books and shipping costs.

To learn more, you can also read our posts on whether you can recycle laundry detergent bottles, whether you can recycle K-cups, and whether you can recycle jigsaw puzzles and boxes.


The jury is out on whether e-books or physical textbooks are more environmentally friendly, however, both options have their pros and cons. Therefore, like many environmental questions, it will boil down to your personal preference.

However, it is always better environmentally not to contribute to the more than 2 billion books that are produced each year in the U.S. alone. In light of this, stated above are some ways that you can make using physical textbooks as environmentally friendly as possible.


  • 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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