12 years ago
RECIRCULATE OLD BOOKS by Deborah Mitchell — Senior Editor, Environmental Protection Don't let old books waste away. Little good comes from unread old books stored for years on shelves, or in attics, or at the back of basements. Like most people, you probably have a collection of old books that you've outgrown, or no longer need for school or work, or received as a gift but don't plan to read. The only thing worse than an unloved book in your home is a discarded book in a landfill. Although there are no definitive statistics of the numbers of old books that are thrown away, we do know that approximately 50 million tons of paper and paperboard bloat our landfills each year. Among that total are countless numbers of used books in great condition that could be saved from the waste stream and put into the hands of people who need and want them — children here and abroad in schools that have no financial resources for books, people in nursing homes and hospitals, children and adults who are learning to read, and people who just love books, love to read, and want to do their part to reduce unnecessary waste and help preserve the integrity of the environment. When you donate, reuse, or recycle old books, you don't just help keep them from overburdening our already bulging landfills; you also help preserve our natural resources. A ton of paper takes up about 3.3 cubic yards of space in a landfill, and it is estimated that 24 trees are needed to produce one ton of virgin printing paper. Whether you have a few old books in your attic, boxes of old books in your study, or you work for or know a school or business that needs to dispose of a large collection of books, there are many ways to keep these books out of the landfills and put them into the hands of grateful individuals. Give your old books to people in your area via the Freecycle Network, an online grassroots organization that offers individuals a forum for giving away (and receiving) free stuff, including books. With more than 3,700 individual groups, there's likely a Freecycle group in your area. Registration is free. Donate books to your local library, which may use them for their collection or for a book sale, which many libraries hold every year or two. You can get a tax deduction for your donation as well. Adopt A Library has a comprehensive list of libraries in schools throughout the United States and abroad, as well as those on American Indian reservations and in prisons, that need all types of books, including textbooks. Read and release your used books on BookCrossing.com, an online service that works like this: you register a book with BookCrossing that you want to give away, place a special sticker inside the cover, and leave the book in a public place (e.g., airport, bus station, park, restaurant) so someone can pick it up, enjoy it, and hopefully pass it along. Registration is free. Bookmooch.com is an online community for sharing used books. You can give away books you no longer want or need in exchange for books you would like. Registration is free. Contact local hospitals, homeless shelters, adult literary programs, and nursing homes. Many would welcome old books for their clients, patients, and/or staff. If you have children's books to part with, contact day care centers as well as nursery, elementary, middle, and high schools that may be happy to use the old books you wish to donate. Trade in or sell your books to secondhand bookstores. You may get cash or credit for future purchases. If you don't want the credit, you can consider donating your credits to a school or children's program so they can make book purchases. Set up a book exchange in your place of employment. This may also be a venue to collect old books for a specific cause; for example, donations to a children's hospital or for a local library book sale. When all else fails, recycle old books. Earth 911 offers book recycling sites in your area. Enter your zip code, click on Book Recycling, and you're on your way. The British writer Douglas Jerrold once said, "A blessed companion is a book – a book that, fitly chosen... pours its heart into our own." You can help keep these "blessed" companions out of the landfills by sharing them with others or ensuring they are recycled to rise again.