Can You Recycle Encyclopedias? 4 Helpful Tips

Recycle Encyclopedias

Encyclopedias have been used for over 2000 years as reliable sources of information on subjects ranging from history to science. But, to stay up to date with recent information, users have to buy new editions.

Given that a single encyclopedia edition can contain over twenty volumes, it’s easy to see how you can quickly end up with a huge collection of the books, wondering how to get rid of them.

Also, thanks to technology, the world is going paperless and opting for digital sources of information. Today, you can find everything you want from an encyclopedia with the tap of a finger on your smartphone or computer, so you might not need your print encyclopedias anymore.

At this point, you might start thinking about recycling your volumes to clear up space. But, is this doable? Read on to learn everything you need to know about recycling encyclopedias.

Are Encyclopedias Recyclable?

Yes, you can recycle encyclopedias, since they are made of paper. But, encyclopedia recycling is not as straightforward as with other books such as paperbacks.

While encyclopedia interiors are made with paper, their covers are usually not. As a result, you’ll find that many recyclers don’t accept encyclopedias. Fortunately, there are numerous ways you can either ensure that you’re able to recycle your encyclopedias or get rid of them ethically.

4 Tips on How to Recycle Your Encyclopedias

When recyclers refuse to accept your encyclopedias, you might be unsure of where to take them next. But worry not. Here are four helpful tips to get rid of old encyclopedias:

1. Remove the Cover and Binding

Encyclopedia covers are often made using materials such as leather, cloth, or plastic, all of which cannot be accepted into a paper-recycling facility. Before the volume can be recycled, the cover needs to be removed. This is quite inconvenient for recycling plants, so they simply don’t take the volumes.

It’s, therefore, advisable that you remove the cover before offering the book for recycling. Without the cover, only the recyclable interior paper remains, making it suitable for paper-recycling facilities.

But, the cover might not be the only thing you need to worry about.

You also need to consider the binding used to hold the pages and cover together. Bookbinding materials range from fabric tapes, glue, and thread.

Since these too can get in the way of paper recycling, you should get rid of them before putting your encyclopedia into the recycling bin or dropping it at a recycler’s.

With these two components out of the way, your encyclopedia will be 100% paper, and hence, recyclable.

2. Check With the Recycler

While you might be able to recycle a lot of paper once you remove the covers and binding, you’ll be left with a lot of trash in terms of materials such as fabric, cardboard, and so on.

Before throwing these out, check with the recycler you’re using to find out whether they have sustainable disposal options for the covers.

3. Give them Away

You can give your encyclopedias to a local library, charities, or schools that still use them. This is especially if you have newer editions that can still prove useful to some users.

If you have old but well-kept volumes, they can still be great donations to communities where access to learning materials is limited.

4. Sell Them

Another way of getting rid of your encyclopedias is by selling them. The world is indeed going paperless and opting for digital sources of information. However, this doesn’t mean that there are no encyclopedia enthusiasts who would love to get their hands on old editions.

You can look for such interested parties online through sites such as Craigslist, or look for a rare bookseller to buy them from you. The older the encyclopedia is, the more likely it’ll be for a rare book reseller to take it off your hands.

Another way to sell your old encyclopedias is through a garage sale. Many brand new encyclopedias cost upwards of hundreds of dollars, so your garage sale might attract customers looking for a good bargain.

Why Should I Recycle My Old Encyclopedias?

Throwing your encyclopedias in the trash won’t necessarily harm the environment. After all, the paper is biodegradable. However, recycling presents several benefits worth considering. Here are four good reasons to recycle your encyclopedias:

Forest Conservation

When recycled paper is used or make new paper products, it reduces the need for the felling of more trees for raw materials. Every year, over 30 million trees in the U.S are cut down to produce textbooks. Recycling encyclopedias can significantly aid in curbing this forest loss.

Reducing Landfill Waste

Paper and paperboard materials make up most of the municipal solid waste, which means recycling them can save a lot of landfill space. Recycling your encyclopedias reduces the amount of waste getting landfilled, leaving more space for non-recyclable solid waste.

Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Deforestation is one of the main factors behind greenhouse gas emissions. This is because when trees are cut down, the carbon dioxide they have absorbed throughout their lifetime is released into the atmosphere. The result is more carbon dioxide in the air with fewer trees to absorb it.

When you recycle your encyclopedias, you save trees and reduce the impact of deforestation on climate change.

Save Space

Environmental conservation aside, recycling your encyclopedias is an excellent way to free up space in your house. 

Encyclopedias can take up a lot of shelf space over the years because you need to regularly get the newest editions. Recycling is a great way to get rid of the old volumes you no longer use.


If you’re no longer using your old encyclopedias, recycling them is one of the best options to get rid of them.

It not only helps you clear out space but also significantly contributes to environmental conservation. For the old volumes that could still serve some purpose to others, it’s recommendable to donate them for reuse.


Paper and Paperboard: Material-Specific Data | US EPA

How Many Trees Cut Down Each Year | 8 Billion Trees

Promote Environmental Benefits | Planet Blue (

How to Dispose of Old Encyclopedias (

How To Recycle Hardcover Books? (Best solution) – About the Book (