There are over seven billion people in the world; on average, each person consumes 55 kilograms- or over 120 pounds- of paper each year. For teens, this consumption is likely from school handouts and assignments. Personally, I receive dozens of pieces of paper each day from my teachers during the school year. Besides that, I have textbooks and additional study materials- which are additional pounds upon pounds of paper.
According to the Environmental Paper Network, an alliance of 150 nonprofit organizations working together to decrease paper use to a sustainable level, our current rate of paper consumption is only increasing. For students, it’s difficult to decrease paper consumption; we can only recycle our extraneous materials at the end of the school year.
When you look back on your bookshelf, you see books from your childhood- perhaps Magic Tree House, or the entire Percy Jackson series. To you, these are no longer consumable books- they aren’t designed for your age group and are no longer appealing. Do you recycle these? What should happen to these books?
Although recycling books is a wonderful idea, the covers and paper material in books differ from normal printer paper, which makes it difficult to recycle; some recycling plants actually don’t accept books and magazines. There are also more sustainable routes to get rid of your old books.
Donating books is great for the environment. A lot of local libraries and thrift stores such as Goodwill and Salvation Army accept books as a form of donation (and donations are tax deductible!).
The quality of the book matters in donation. These books are resold for low prices- my local library sells a myriad of books for only twenty-five cents, ranging from giant nonfiction art books to fast literature such as Danielle Steel romance novels and Stephen King horror. If the books are low quality, with badly damaged spines, falling out pages, or severe wrinkles and rips, they will be recycled to the appropriate plant for repurposing. If the books are relatively clean and undamaged, these novels will find great new loving homes, who will appreciate the story they tell.
The revenue gained from re-selling these books is actually used for great purposes as well. Goodwill and other thrift stores use the revenue to run their stores and expand. My local library gains some revenue from the books, which is used to fund programs like arts-and-crafts, movies, and other events and activities.
Donating books is a great way to give back to your community and looking through second-hand books will yield great treasures! So next time you’re clearing out your home library, donate your books! If you’re looking for a new read, consider checking out your local library’s second-hand book store or a regional thrift store!
Mandy is a junior at Woodbridge High School and a Lion’s Heart summer intern. She enjoys Taekwondo, reading and writing fiction, as well as volunteering at her local library. She’s been a member of Lion’s Heart since May of 2017.