Soft limits for soft back book recycling, hard limits for hard cover: Reuse is best

by David Goldstein

Book reuse, rather than book recycling, should be our first resort for discarded books. Books free of mold, mildew or water stains may be donated to thrift stores; sold on sites such as eBay, Craigslist, or OfferUp; given away to a Friends of the Library organization or through sites such as Freecycle or; or brought to a bookstore, such as Abednego Books, in Ventura, which accepts used books and, in exchange, offers partial store credit toward book purchases. Through the Little Free Libraries non-profit organization, some people set up book swap enclosures in front of their homes.

For 200 or more books at a time, collection can be provided by American Book Drive, based in Simi Valley, which also picks up CDs, or DVDs. American Book Drive depends on receiving high quality items among the discards; their business model involves selling some items and donating funds to a charity chosen by their book donors in exchange for the books. Book drives can therefore also be conducted by schools or non-profit organizations. You can contact the company at (877) 870-7701 or

However, all books eventually reach a point of no return. For recycling, rather than reusing, large numbers of books, Berg Mill offers an option in Ventura. The company picks up and pays for books stored in quantities of 20 or more gaylords. A gaylord is a large cardboard box capable of holding approximately 1,000 pounds. This option works for book consolidation sites, such as regional sorting centers for thrift store chains, school district warehouses, and large Friends of the Library sorting centers with sufficient storage space.

For curbside recycling programs and recycling in commercial bins in Ventura by Harrison Industries, soft cover books are acceptable, but hard cover books are limited. The guideline in these areas is “no more than 10 hard cover books at a time,” according to Danial Marks, with Berg Mills, which markets material sorted at Gold Coast Recycling, in Ventura. “Any more than that, and there is a chance it could end up in one bale, making it difficult to recycle,” he explained. The spines of hard cover books must be cut off with device called a “guillotine” before the paper can be recycled, and buyers balk at loads requiring too much labor to process.

On-line resources:

Ventura Friends of the Library:

David Goldstein, Ventura County Public Works Environmental Resource Analyst, may be reached at (805) 658-4312 or [email protected]

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