How to Recycle Books and Magazines
While magazine subscriptions are on a recent decline and book sales are holding steady, it’s likely you have a stockpile of both these products on your coffee table, in your bookshelf or collecting dust in the garage. When you’re ready to clean them out, hopefully recycling is on your mind.
Both books and magazines fall under the category of mixed paper, which also includes catalogs and phone books. While mixed paper has a lower commodity value (and thus a smaller recycling market) than items like newspapers, office paper and corrugated cardboard, most paper mills in the U.S. will recycle mixed paper.
Book and Magazine Recycling Preparation
- For magazines, you don’t need to remove anything from inside the magazine, such as staples, the cardstock ads or even perfume samples. You can also leave the cover and binding.
- If the magazine came in a plastic bag, you’ll want to remove and recycle this separately.
- For paperback books, you can recycle the book whole, including the binding. For hardcover books, you’ll need to remove the cover because it has non-paper components.
- If either your books or magazines have gotten wet or the paper has turned tan or brown, they should be thrown away with your household trash, as there is no recycling market for this material.
Why Recycle Books and Magazines
- Each ton of paper recycled saves 3 cubic yards of landfill space, 380 gallons of oil and 17 trees, not to mention 4,000 kilowatts of energy and 7,000 gallons of water
- Paper accounts for half the weight of all recyclables collected in curbside programs, and books and magazines are some of the heaviest paper products
- We only get 33 percent of our new paper pulp from recycled materials; the rest must be sourced from tearing down trees and wood chips
Book and Magazine Recycling Process
Since both books and magazines are mixed paper, the first step in recycling is to separate these products from cardboard, office paper and newspaper grades. The mixed paper is then baled and sent to a mill.
At the mill, there are machines called pulpers that introduce water and chemicals to break down the paper into fibers. Then, any ink and adhesive is removed and the paper fibers start bonding together. Finally, the fibers are rolled and dried, then sent off to make new products. Because mixed paper fibers are smaller than cardboard or office paper, this paper is recycled into lesser-quality paper products, such as coffee filters, egg cartons and paper towels.
Find a drop-off location for books and magazines near you using the Recycling Locator.
Frequent Book and Magazine Recycling Questions
- 6 Awesome Ways to Upcycle Old Books: Who needs recycling when you can create crafts from your old books?
- Everything You Need to Know About Paper Recycling: An overview of how different paper products are recycled
- Nike Uses Old Magazines for New Shoes: Shoe manufacturer Nike has come up with a new way to recycle magazines