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 going paperless, and several encyclopedias may take up 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.

And with this monumental shift comes the question: 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?

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. Encyclopedias are conventionally hardback books, 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 possible. Once you’ve done all this, you can now recycle the leaves with other paper waste.

If you have a plethora of books or maybe don’t want to go through the hassle of slicing the hardbacks into tiny pieces, check with your recycling centers. Some accept hardback books, while most will only accept them once the cover has been removed.

Recycle Bins for Paper

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, which are considered contaminants, meaning that their diverse materials can pollute the conventional 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 an arduous affair, there are other methods you can consider. For instance, donation works; many organizations accept old books.

Can You Throw Away Encyclopedias?

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 recycling or repurposing them.

If you have to throw them away, use the right disposal method. Improperly disposed of, encyclopedias can contribute to litter, which has become a major global environmental quagmire.

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

Give to 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

Just because you don’t need your encyclopedias doesn’t mean it’s the case for everyone else. You can consider giving them to people who will find them useful if the books are in acceptable condition.

Donating things you 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.

If neither of these charitable organizations is within your vicinity, 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 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?

Are Old Encyclopedias Worth Anything?

The age of a book doesn’t inherently dictate its value. While some old books can indeed be quite valuable, new ones can also carry a high price tag. Conversely, there are numerous old books that hold little to no worth, just as there are contemporary ones with little value. Ultimately, a book’s value is a reflection of demand and what people are willing to pay for it.

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 want 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 want 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 to have the complete collection; you can make about $15 to $25 on the set.

How to Dispose of Old Encyclopedias?

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 book 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 use 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 noticed that old encyclopedias make such great furniture. Well, you can also create a table from your collection. Check out the instructables’ descriptions of making a table with old encyclopedias.

4. Artsy Ceiling Idea

Remember, art can take any form. And take it from us: 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

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 to read, your bookworm friends and family, or even homeless people. Schools, your local library, and a playhouse are all potential areas for donation.

6. Recycle them

Recycling is another easy and environmentally sensitive method of throwing away old encyclopedias. However, you usually cannot recycle the hardback because it’s not made from paper. So, you’ll have to take it apart before putting the 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 encyclopedia 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 still consider composting it, though, 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, those with missing pages, or any other unacceptable condition.

Old Books

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.