Unlocking the Secrets of Recycling: What to Do with Old Encyclopedias

May 29, 2023 in environment, recycling

Article summary and Key takeaways: Recycling encyclopedias requires careful consideration of factors such as the condition of the books, local recycling guidelines, and the types of materials used. Research local recycling options and contact recycling centers or waste management facilities to find the appropriate recycling facility. Alternatively, consider donating or selling old encyclopedias. Donating can benefit others who may not have access to educational resources, while selling can be an option for books in good condition. If recycling, donating, or selling is not possible, repurpose the encyclopedias for crafts or decorative purposes. Before disposing of old encyclopedias, consider their historical or sentimental value, as well as their reference purposes. By making conscious choices about disposal, we can contribute to a more sustainable future.

Recycling has become an increasingly important topic in recent years, as people strive to reduce waste and minimize their impact on the environment. While many everyday items can be easily recycled, such as plastic bottles and aluminum cans, there are some items that may leave us scratching our heads when it comes to proper disposal. One such item is old encyclopedias.

Can you recycle encyclopedias?

The answer to this question is not as straightforward as one might think. Recycling encyclopedias requires careful consideration of various factors, such as the condition of the books, local recycling guidelines, and the types of materials used in the encyclopedias.

Explanation of the recycling process

Before delving into whether encyclopedias can be recycled, it’s important to understand the recycling process. Recycling involves the collection and processing of waste materials to create new products. This process helps conserve natural resources, reduce the amount of waste sent to landfills, and minimize pollution.

Factors to consider when recycling encyclopedias

When it comes to recycling encyclopedias, there are several factors to consider:

Condition of the books

If your encyclopedias are in good condition, with minimal damage or markings, they may be more likely to be accepted for recycling. However, if the books are heavily damaged or have missing pages, they may not be suitable for recycling.

Local recycling guidelines and facilities

Recycling guidelines and facilities can vary depending on your location. Some recycling centers may accept books for recycling, while others may not. It’s important to research the specific guidelines in your area to ensure you are disposing of your encyclopedias properly.

Types of materials used in the encyclopedias

Encyclopedias are typically made up of a combination of materials, including paper, ink, and adhesives. These materials can be recycled, but it depends on the recycling capabilities in your area. Some recycling centers may only accept certain types of paper or have limitations on the recycling of books.

Where to recycle encyclopedias

If you have determined that your encyclopedias can be recycled, the next step is to find the appropriate recycling facility. Here are some options:

Researching local recycling options

Start by researching local recycling options in your area. Check with your municipality or waste management facility to see if they accept books for recycling. They can provide you with specific guidelines and instructions on how to properly dispose of your encyclopedias.

Contacting recycling centers and waste management facilities

Reach out to recycling centers and waste management facilities in your area to inquire about their policies on recycling books. They can provide you with information on drop-off locations and any specific requirements for recycling encyclopedias.

Online resources for finding recycling locations

There are also online resources available that can help you find recycling locations in your area. Websites such as RecycleNation and Earth911 allow you to search for recycling facilities near you by entering your zip code.

Donating encyclopedias

Another option to consider instead of recycling is donating your old encyclopedias. Donating can be a great way to give your books a second life and benefit others. Here are some benefits of donating instead of recycling:

Benefits of donating instead of recycling

By donating your old encyclopedias, you are giving someone else the opportunity to use and enjoy them. This is especially beneficial for those who may not have access to educational resources or cannot afford to purchase books.

Organizations that accept old encyclopedias

There are several organizations and institutions that accept old encyclopedias:

Goodwill and other thrift stores

Thrift stores such as Goodwill often accept book donations. These organizations typically resell the books at affordable prices, providing funding for their various social programs.

Libraries and schools

Local libraries and schools may also accept donations of old encyclopedias. These institutions can use the books for their collections or distribute them to students in need.

Non-profit organizations

Non-profit organizations focused on education or literacy may also accept donations of old encyclopedias. These organizations can distribute the books to underprivileged communities or use them for educational programs.

Selling old encyclopedias

If your old encyclopedias are in good condition and have potential value, you may consider selling them instead of donating or recycling. Here are some options for selling old encyclopedias:

Online marketplaces for selling used books

Websites such as eBay, Amazon, and AbeBooks allow you to sell used books, including old encyclopedias. These platforms provide a wider reach and potential for finding buyers interested in purchasing your books.

Specialty bookstores and antique shops

Specialty bookstores and antique shops that deal with rare and collectible books may be interested in purchasing old encyclopedias. These stores often have a niche market and may be willing to pay a higher price for unique or valuable editions.

Factors to consider when selling old encyclopedias

When selling old encyclopedias, there are a few factors to consider:

Condition and rarity of the books

The condition of your encyclopedias plays a significant role in determining their value. Books in excellent condition, with minimal wear and tear, are more likely to fetch a higher price. Additionally, rare editions or complete sets may be more valuable to collectors.

Demand for old encyclopedias

The demand for old encyclopedias can vary depending on factors such as current trends and interests. Research the market and see if there is a demand for the specific editions or topics covered in your encyclopedias before setting a selling price.

Creative uses for old encyclopedias

If recycling, donating, or selling your old encyclopedias is not an option, there are creative ways to repurpose them. Here are some ideas:

Craft ideas and DIY projects

Encyclopedias can be transformed into unique crafts and DIY projects. From making paper flowers to creating collages, there are endless possibilities for repurposing the pages of old encyclopedias.

Repurposing the books for decorative purposes

You can also repurpose old encyclopedias as decorative pieces. Stack them and use them as bookends, or cut out interesting illustrations or pages to create artwork or decoupage.

Upcycling ideas for old encyclopedias

Upcycling involves transforming old or discarded items into new, useful products. For example, you can turn the covers of encyclopedias into unique coasters or create storage boxes from the pages.

Should you keep old encyclopedias?

Before disposing of your old encyclopedias, it’s worth considering whether you should keep them. Here are some factors to consider:

Factors to consider when deciding whether to keep or dispose of old encyclopedias

Consider the following factors when deciding whether to keep or dispose of old encyclopedias:

Historical value and nostalgia

Some encyclopedias may hold historical value or sentimental significance. If the books were passed down through generations or have personal memories attached to them, you may want to keep them for sentimental reasons.

Reference purposes

Old encyclopedias can still serve as a valuable reference tool, especially for historical research or general knowledge. If you frequently refer to encyclopedias for information, it may be worth keeping a few volumes for reference purposes.


Proper disposal of old encyclopedias is crucial for minimizing waste and reducing our environmental impact. While recycling is a viable option, it’s important to consider the condition of the books, local recycling guidelines, and the types of materials used. Donating or selling old encyclopedias can also give them a new purpose and benefit others. Alternatively, you can get creative and repurpose the books for various craft and DIY projects. Ultimately, the decision to keep or dispose of old encyclopedias should be based on their sentimental or practical value to you. By making conscious choices about the disposal of our old encyclopedias, we can contribute to a more sustainable future.

Question 1: What should I do with my 30 year old encyclopedia?
Answer: You can consider donating it to a library or a school, or recycle it if it is no longer in good condition.

Question 2: What should I do with a set of encyclopedias?
Answer: You can try selling them online, donating them to a library or a school, or recycle them if they are outdated or damaged.

Question 3: Is there a need for old encyclopedias?
Answer: Generally, the need for old encyclopedias has decreased with the availability of online resources. However, some collectors or researchers may still have an interest in specific editions.

Question 4: Is there a market for old encyclopedias?
Answer: The market for old encyclopedias is limited. While some rare or collectible editions may have value, most older encyclopedias have little to no market demand.


About the author 

Jamie Willson

Hey there, I'm Jamie! As a Climate Scientist from MIT, I've spent years unraveling the complexities of global warming. My work ranges from conducting research on climate impacts to advising on environmental policies. I'm passionate about making the science of climate change accessible and actionable. Join me as we explore practical solutions to one of the biggest challenges facing our planet.