How can I reuse or recycle damaged books?

As I mentioned on The Really Good Life earlier today, I’m having a bit of an unplanned book buying month this month so I’ve decided to have an equally hitherto unplanned book themed week on both sites :)

Thinking about books reminded me about an email I received a while ago (but can’t find at the moment) asking about whether water damaged books can be recycled. Even though they’re nearly entirely paper, the glue used to bind books can sometimes cause problems along the recycling chain so don’t assume they can be added to normal paper recycling bins – check with your local council/the company that collects the bin first. They can be composted though if you have a compost heap at home – tear them up and add alongside plenty of “greens” if you want them to rot down quicker. On a similar destructive vein, my friend Strowger assures me they burn very well, for a long time, in woodburning stoves, although I’m not sure I could bring myself to burn even a damaged book!

Most people I know get clear out their books by giving them to charity shops – but most charity shops, particularly large chain ones, only want them in a very good, sellable condition so they can charge a decent amount for them. People who do carboot sales or run adhoc jumble sales etc are often slightly less discerning (since they generally have less overheads so can sell them cheaper to offset the condition) – I regularly see boxes of books given away on Freecycle/Freegle labelled as “ideal for carbooters” so that might be an option if the books are still readable and you don’t fancy selling them yourself.

Hardback books – particularly ones with interesting, pretty or retro covers – can be recycled into folders for papers or notebooks (I’ll post some links to how-tos in a “upcycling books round-up” tomorrow). Other people scavenge undamaged pages from old books to use for papercrafts or artwork.

Anyone got any particular reuse, recycling or upcycling suggestions for damaged books, or their parts?

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9 Responses to “How can I reuse or recycle damaged books?”

  1. strowger says:

    you obviously mustn’t burn anything that someone might want – put it in the charity shop instead – but for some stuff like 15-years-old programming manuals, mills & boon, technical documentation for equipment no one cares about[0]…it’s perfectly good fuel.

    if you’re burning lots of paper you *must* arrange it vertically in your stove/fire – if it’s flat/horizontal, it will choke the fire with ash as it burns. vertically, the ash falls away as it burns.

    [0] take a bow, dell

  2. Dani says:

    I’ve turned a few shabby books into secret storage place for precious items / jewellery. I figured that that is the last place that thieves would look.

    Simply hollow out an area big enough for whatever you want to store (hide) and glue the outside of the remaining loose pages together. Insert whatever inside, and place in your bookshelf :)

  3. Karen says:

    I’m from the Netherlands and we use them as a funny way to give presents. It’s like the last reply: hollow out the book and put in the present! We actually do it for ‘Sinterklaas’ wich is like Santa only on the 5th of december. So hereby a cultures lesson and a reuse idea :)

  4. Melinda says:

    To piggyback on the two previous ideas, one could hollow out a book that is large enough, to use as a place to keep an e-book, tablet or computer. If it goes into a bookcase, so much the better for disguise and security.

  5. Jen says:

    You can send your old books to be converted into notebooks, journals and even diaries. They are wirebound and filled with recycled or reclaimed paper, and some of the original pages are left in the new book.
    You can send any books as long as the covers are OK, but they don’t even need a spine. Each is truly unique and they make fantastic gifts!
    For a better explanation of how it works check out and

  6. Uluska says:

    1.Pages can be used to make banners for the party or just for decoration.
    2. Use them to play a psychic at the party – predict destinies. Person has to name the page, the paragraph, and the raw. Whatever is written there – is his destiny. :)

  7. Uluska says:

    Place books in a waterproof box and hide deep into the ground for future archeologists to discover.

  8. Uluska says:

    If you have enough, keep them under mattress – the bad will stay warmer.

  9. Nancy S. Webb says:

    For several years my huband has been collected books & magazines and donated them to local jails & homeless shelters. It makes it easier for me to give them away, & it’s amazing how many are donated when people know that they are going to a good cause.

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