Can You Recycle Encyclopedias? (And Donate Them?)

As bookworms, some of our fondest memories include collecting and reading encyclopedias. They had a wealth of information within those hardbacks! And because of how they’re classified, hunting for the following letter was always an adventure.

However, the world is unarguably going paperless, and several encyclopedias may take space in your home. Since the internet is now within reach, with endless and up-to-date information, it may be time to let your collection go.

Can you recycle encyclopedias? If that question has crossed your mind, please keep reading. This blog post will explore your environmentally friendly waste disposal options for old books. Enjoy!

Can Old Encyclopedias be Recycled?

Recycling is straightforward and environmentally safe, but can old encyclopedias be recycled? For apparent reasons, proper disposal of these old books is vital.

Well, you can recycle old encyclopedias; however, you can’t put them directly in the bin. Instead, you must prepare the books to make them suitable for recycling.

It’s conventionally a hardback book, so the external cover is made from different materials. If you recycle them with other paper waste, it’ll result in contamination because the hardcover is made from leather, cloth, and heavy paper.

As such, you must take that part off before putting the leaves in the recycle bin. Use a utility knife to remove the front and back covers and rip them into smaller pieces if you can.

Then, you can recycle the leaves with other paper waste.

Alternatively, find out if your city accepts old books with hardbacks.

Can You Put Old Encyclopedias in the Recycle Bin?

Well, you can’t put old encyclopedias in the recycle bin. This is because they’re conventionally made with hardbacks. And hardbacks are considered contaminants; their diverse materials will pollute the paper in the recycle bin.

But again, some recycling centers may accept old encyclopedias with their hardcovers. You can inquire at your community’s recycling center before taking them there.

If you find recycling the old encyclopedias to be a hassle, there are other methods you can consider. For instance, donation works; many organizations accept old books.

Can You Throw Away Encyclopedias?

Often, our immediate thought is to throw useless material in the trash can. However, some of them have harmful effects on the environment or take up space in our landfills.

As such, environmentally friendly methods like recycling, upcycling, and composting are being enforced by various states.

But again, some materials won’t necessarily harm the environment when they end up in our landfills—for instance, old encyclopedias.

Now, you can throw old encyclopedias away without negatively impacting the environment. The paper is biodegradable, so it’ll break down within two to six weeks.

The hardback would also decompose because it’s made from paperboard, leather, heavy paper, and buckram. All these materials are biodegradable so that you can throw away encyclopedias.

However, there are several beneficial things you can do with old encyclopedias. So, instead of throwing them away, we recommend

Can You Donate Old Encyclopedia Sets?

Yes, you can donate old encyclopedia sets. If you’ve had some difficulty selling your old collection, there are many donation options. Some of them include:

1. Your local library

Your library is one of the best places to donate books you don’t want anymore. However, they must be in an acceptable condition.

Put a call through to find out if they’ll accept your old encyclopedias for sale or donation.

2. Your local charity

Donating things to don’t need anymore is a win-win situation for you and the recipient. Your old encyclopedias are acceptable at Goodwill and Salvation Army because these books can still put a smile on someone’s face.

Alternatively, you can inquire if your local charity accepts old encyclopedias. You can use Donation Town, a website that connects people who need free donation services.

3. Your local theater

If your old encyclopedias look historical, you can donate them to your local theater for use as a prop. But first, please check with them before taking the books there.

4. Prisons

Your old encyclopedias will also do some good in prisons. They need old books, so you can make inquiries about donating your collection of old encyclopedias.

5. Thrift stores

There are also many thrift stores where you can donate old books that you don’t want anymore. These books will often be sold, but they’re sometimes donated too.

You can look for an online or offline thrift store. 

Are Old Encyclopedias Worth Anything?

For starters, the age of a book doesn’t necessarily determine its worth. Some books are old and worth a fortune, but new ones can also be costly.

In the same vein, many old books are worthless and contemporary ones. It depends on desire; what people want.

Considering old encyclopedias, some people collect them. If the books are older than a hundred years, find out their value from a rare bookseller.

Alternatively, you can sell them at a garage sale. If you’re looking to free up some space in your home, selling your old encyclopedias for a few bucks won’t hurt.

Another option is to call your local bookstore to find out if they’re looking to buy old encyclopedias. Or, you can use the internet – many websites facilitate book sales. Who knows, you may even meet a rare book collector online.

Conventionally, it would be best if you didn’t sell encyclopedias that are torn, stained, have missing pages, or are in generally unacceptable conditions. However, that rule doesn’t extend to rare encyclopedias.

So, make proper inquiries before selling your old encyclopedia.

Amazon is one of the most common online places to sell used books, but you can also check eBay, Powell’s Books, BookScouter, and Half Price Books, among many others.

Now, most rare book collectors target old encyclopedias older than a hundred years. It’s even better if you have the complete collection; you can make about $15 to $25 on the set.

How to Dispose of Old Encyclopedias?

When it’s finally time to let go of those old encyclopedias, you don’t need to throw them away. You can explore several hacks to get additional use out of these books. It’s called upcycling, and this section will explore seven options:

1. Decorative stools

An old encyclopedia is highly likely to have a hardcover. You can take advantage of it by building a stool out of several encyclopedias.

They can be arranged on each other, either straight or spiraling. What matters is setting them in a stable and aesthetically pleasing position. Afterward, place a glass or flat wooden surface on it.

2. A shelf case

If you have a collection of encyclopedias, then you’re likely a boo lover. Well, here’s a hack for you – build a shelf case with several old encyclopedias.

You can construct it yourself if you’re handy with tools. Alternatively, call a woodworker to pull it off for you. It’s akin to building a shelf, but you’ll be using old hardback encyclopedias instead of wood.

This hack works because of the sturdy material hardcover books are made of.

3. A table

By now, you must have caught on that old encyclopedias seem to make such great furniture. Well, you can also create a table from your collection.

Check out instructables’ descriptions of making a table with old encyclopedias.

4. Artsy ceiling idea

Remember, art can take any form. And take it from us, the idea of using epoxy glue to attach your old encyclopedias to your ceiling may seem dramatic, but it works.

However, you’ll have to invoke your creative side by creating an appealing pattern. Open the books to the center and attach them to the ceiling following your designated pattern.

5. Donate them

Another idea is to donate your old collection of encyclopedias. Many charity organizations accept old books, but you can also donate them to people around you. These include young kids learning how to read, your bookworm friends and family, or even homeless people.

You can also donate to schools, your local library, or a playhouse.

6. Recycle them

Recycling is another easy and environmentally sensitive method of throwing away old encyclopedias. However, you cannot recycle the hardback because it’s not made from paper. So, you’ll have to take it apart before putting the actual leaves in the recycle bin.

7. Compost them

Do you consider yourself a green thumb? If so, then composting shouldn’t be a strange idea. You can compost household waste like paper, which is what encyclopedias pages are made of.

Rip the pages into smaller pieces. Soaking them in some water before composting will accelerate the biodegradation process. You’ll be left with the hardback, which we recommend simply throwing in the trash can.

It’s made of biodegradable materials too, so it’ll decompose soon. You can consider composting it too, but we’re afraid it’ll take a significantly more extended period than the rest of your compost mix.

That’s because hardcovers have been designed to be sturdy, to protect the leaves within. It’ll break down, but only when the element of time is on its side.

Now, we only recommend composting when the old encyclopedias are no longer suitable for sale or donation.

How to Get Rid of Books When You’re Moving?

Moving isn’t always easy, even though it can be exciting. If you’re hard-pressed for space, you may be limited from taking all your belongings, including your old books.

Parting with your beloved collection may be a mental hassle, but there are disposal options that’ll certainly make you smile.

For instance, you can list the books you want to dispose of and give them to people who pop up in your mind. It makes an excellent gift that they can use to remember you.

But again, it’s best to avoid donating torn books, have missing pages, or other unacceptable conditions.

Is it Okay to Throw Away Books?

Throwing away old books isn’t bad, contrary to public opinion. If you have difficulty donating or selling some of your old books, you can throw them away.

Books that are wet or have water damage cannot be recycled. If the paper has also turned brown, throw it away.

However, it’s best to ensure the materials are environmentally friendly before throwing them in the trash can. For instance, if your book has a plastic attachment, typically found on the cover of hardbacks, you can remove it before disposal.


Undoubtedly, our impacts on the environment are significant. We must equally explore waste disposal methods that leave the most negligible impact.

If you have a couple of old encyclopedias that you don’t need anymore, recycling them is an excellent way to dispose of them. We’ve also explored other options, so we implore you to make informed decisions going further.

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About Rinkesh

A true environmentalist by heart ❤️. Founded Conserve Energy Future with the sole motto of providing helpful information related to our rapidly depleting environment. Unless you strongly believe in Elon Musk‘s idea of making Mars as another habitable planet, do remember that there really is no 'Planet B' in this whole universe.