22 Ways To Recycle, Reuse, and Repurpose Old Unwanted Books

What Do I Do With a Bunch of Old Unwanted Books?

Shopping for books, it’s easy to only see the upsides and imagine long-term enjoyment for books whose covers called out to you.

But after the receipt is printed and you finally get the chance to sift through your batch with more reason, you’ll realize that not everything you bought is going to stay. And months or years later, you have now accumulated a good number of unwanted books to need to get rid of them and make space.

Recently I’ve been excited to end a reading break but have to first clear out my clutter books to make space for new ones. I’ve found that I have a bunch of books that I don’t want, don’t know what to do with, or have never read. And throwing those books out is definitely not an option.

Too much time has pass, of storing books in the basement, using some for decoration, paper weights, rulers, and whatever else. So inspired by my need to get rid of a ton of books here are some ways to reuse, recycle, and repurpose unwanted books.

I tried to come up with as much as I could, but I’m sure there are more ways to make better use of unwanted books. If you know and practice other ways that are not listed, put them in the comments below for us book accumulators to use.

This list wouldn’t be complete without including my Pinterest finds that helped visualize some of these ideas. I’ve made a Pinterest Board full of ideas and inspiration about recycling books and book pages for you to follow and save.

***Disclaimer some of these methods involve the tearing, burning, bending, breaking, or destroying of books, it’s pages and it’s covers. If you’re not keen on destroying books, then there are some methods that do preserve the entirety of the books. But I think all of these methods are better than throwing them away.

#1 Gift Your Books to Family and Friends

Give your books to someone who would benefit from them. A collection of Dr. Suess’s books, the Divergent or Hunger Games series make great birthday gifts for a young teen readers. Or maybe some classics for a fellow thinker.

Books that we’ve grown out of or away from make perfect gifts for family and friends who may be interested into what you’ve got to reuse.

#2 Donate Your Books

Donating and gifting are similar. But donating often suggests gifting to a specific cause or organization and is often done between two totally unrelated parties.

With a little bit of research you can find many well known and local organizations, groups and causes to donate to. You could also donate to a thrift shop, bookstore, or local library.

When donating books do be mindful of the sort of books that you donate ( condition, content, genre, and so on) and to who ( or which organization or place) you are donating to. There are great books and crazy books, so do be mindful.

#3 Books = Decor

Books are some of the most used and most important decoration pieces for many homes, home stylists and home designers. To be sat on a coffee table or placed stylishly on a bookshelf, books are the backbone of decor for many styles. Just as they are, your large books could be used as stands for other decor pieces like large flower pots or sculptures. These unwanted books can also fill up a bookshelf that is mainly for display.

Maybe these books from this Pinterest Pin are read, or maybe they’re not. Either way, they make this bookshelf design look great. And the page color matches the bookshelf’s color aesthetic.

Books could complete a piece of decor or they could be a statement of decor all on their own. Using unwanted, unused, or extra books as the decor has become a trend for bookstores. Hanging up books from the ceiling is a charming and growing trend that I’ve seen and love. Books could also be hung up like pictures on a wall or as a mural. To make shapes and designs like in this next Pin

I have also seen this decor trend where people would print out ( or use) book covers of certain colors and textures to place over books (sometimes based on size) to stack books in a uniform way on their coffee table. I’ve seen all-white stacked books or all-black: Your extra books can help dress up any table. Old unwanted books can be spray painted over, painted on, or re-covered with book covers of different colors and textures to create any kind of stack you want.

#4 Use Book Pages for Decoration

The pages inside the books are just as much decor pieces as the whole books themselves. Use a few or many pages from a book to recreate or create the perfect decorations for your rooms, or occasions.

This pin gives the most perfect example of this. For this book-themed wedding, Books were used as parts of table centerpieces and book pages were put together to make a table runner.

An average book can have about 200- 400 pages between the book spine and covers. So you have about 200 pages to play and experiment with. If you’re really into making decoration pieces, you could use book pages to help test out all of your ideas.

After reading this section I’m sure you might already be thinking of other ways to recycle book pages because there are so many other ways.

#5 Book Pages For a Photoshoot Backdrop

Newspapers and magazines are often used as backgrounds and backdrops for photoshoots like this

And the same can be done with book pages. If some of you are bookfluencers, writers, or business owners of book-related products, a book page backdrop can be a cheap and great way to design professional pictures. For this, all you would need are some book pages ( from a book you don’t need or want), some adhesive to stick the pages together, and a wall or large surface to stick the pages on.

If not a backdrop you could use these pages as wallpaper for one wall or a small room. Book pages have a low-key statement piece look that goes with many neutral colors. You may just have the wallpaper you’ve been looking for, right there in those unwanted books.

#6 Compost Books and Book Pages

Composting is a classic way to recycle reusable materials like paper. If your book pages aren’t colored or glossy then they are perfect and ready to add to your compost or mulch mix. If you aren’t already into composting you could drop your books off at a composting center near you.

#7 Papier Mâche

Have you heard of paper mache? Before needing to get rid of books and researching about paper mache for this blog post I’d only heard of paper mache in passing. Like on a tv show or something. But the pictures and examples I found have gotten me inspired to paper mache some summer projects. Here are some that I’ve seen on Pinterest.

Paper mache actually spelled Papier Mâche is a moldable material made up of paper, papier mâche paste. I’ve seen different kinds of paste recipes but many of them include starches like flour and all of them have some sort of glue in them. Sometimes fabrics and other materials are added to a mix.

Many of these projects start with cardboard or wire. Papier mâche mix is then added on top of this base and then painted over when dry. Projects are sometimes sanded down to create smooth textures. From bowls to lamps to sculptures, lots of things can be made when you have a supply of paper available for craft use, like the paper from unwanted books.

#8 Secret Storage

Composting is a classic way to recycle reusable materials like paper. If your book pages aren’t colored or glossy then they are perfect and ready to add to your compost or mulch mix. If you aren’t already into composting you could drop your books off at a composting center near you.

Books can be hollowed out and/or put together to create secret storage for hiding your most precious items. You can hide items in individual books like this

or in a bookcase behind hollowed-out books like this.

#9 Make Book Marks

The spine of old unwanted books could be used as bookmarks or used to make bookmarks. Book pages could also make great bookmarks. Epoxy is a material popularly used by small businesses to make small products and jewelry like earrings and coasters. I do wonder if book pages could be added to epoxy mixes for various products like bookmarks.

#10 Make Blank Paper

The pages of your unwanted books could be used to make blank paper. This kind of paper is often called recycled paper and can look like this

and like this

Recycled paper can be any shape or color you want it to be. Old and unwanted paper is soaked and blended (or crushed or mushed) together to make a smooth and wet pulpy paste that is flattened onto a mesh frame of some sort. The flattened paper is then turned over onto a cloth or material to dry. Color is often added to the wet pulp and embellishments like flowers are added while the pulp is being flattened onto the mesh.

I love this idea because I do buy a good amount of notebooks and journals. Using old paper from books that I want to get rid of to make new blank paper can save me a lot of money. I can also make the paper any way I like.

I wonder if I could use the pages to create make-shift journals. Maybe I could reuse the book covers for those recycled papers. I could repaint or redecorate book covers like from #3 for recycled paper covers

#11 Book Paper Make GReat Shoe Stuffers

Old paper from your old books can make great shoe stuffers. Maybe you are a book lover and shoe lover/sneakerhead. Well, old books hold tons of paper to stuff your shoes and keep them un-creased, upright, and fresh.

#12 Trade Your Books

As the saying goes one man or woman’s garbage is another man or woman’s treasure. Books that you want to throw away might be the books that other people are planning to buy. Those people may be your friends and family.

Trading is a fun and simple way to get rid of unwanted books (as long as you have a person to trade with). Trade your unwanted book with someone for books you want and like. This method creates a win-win transaction.

If you are recycling your books to save or make more space then trading books may not be the best option.

#13 Sell Your Books

Trading with other people is a free and simple exchange. But you could sell your unwanted books. There are sites online and indie/local book stores that’ll buy your books.

I have looked into this method numerous times before and found that the price for books can really vary based on genre. Online, fiction books are not the most bought back books. They either have no value or low value. But some of you may have old textbooks, informational & self-help books that could be worth decent money. But unless you have hundreds of valuable textbooks don’t expect thousands of dollars. Book prices vary for each site and each book shop so check out your local book shops and these sites for prices.

Book Scouter is great to use for selling used books online. You could easily compare offers from other book-buying sites. It’s like a one-stop shop..

If you have lots of vintage or popular books you could sell your books on e-commerce platforms like Etsy or eBay which are perfect for individual sellers and small businesses. You could also use apps/websites like Letgo or Facebook Marketplace to sell your books.

When using these marketplaces and e-commerce/commerce platforms do a little bit of research and see what books like yours are being sold for so that you can correctly price your book and sell it successfully. These platforms may also have selling fees so do your research. Many of them also have tons of professional tools, tips, and resources to help you sell easily and make money for your items.

If you’re looking to get rid of your books quickly then this method may not be the best option for you. Selling books can take some time.

#14 Origami

Origami is a form of art created by folding paper. This is an art form that comes from Asia, some speculate Japan and others China. Either way it’s a really fun art form and project that you can do with your friends and family

It’s also a really great activity for kids. They could fold dinosaurs, dresses, swords, paper hats, and butterflies. Origami tutorials can be found all over the internet. Youtube and Pinterest in particular have tons. They even have books on Origami designs and projects that you could buy or borrow from your local library and book stores.

This method also works great if you’re an art teacher, teacher, tutor, and babysitter. If you work with kids this activity is fun and keeps them busy.

#15 Surface Protector

Speaking of kids, old pages from books could be used to paste or place down on surfaces as protection. Paper from books can protect your tables and floor from busy and active kids.

#16 Scrap Paper

Your old book pages can also be used as scrap paper. If you’re an artist you could paint or draw over them.

#17 Book Art

These are all great examples of book art. If you run a library at a school or need a cool display for your library or bookshelf at home, turn your old books into art pieces and statements.

#18 Make Furniture Out of Books

This is one of my absolute favorite methods. I love to switch out and redecorate furniture. Being able to use books to make new furniture has definitely topped the cake for me. Now I don’t plan on making huge pieces of furniture but something like a small coffee table is definitely up my alley.

Imagine making a small table structure using old books and topping it off with a paper mache top. Heck, I wonder if I could papier-mâche table legs. Of course, I’d have to worry about the weight of the books on paper mache legs, but the idea isn’t impossible.

A regular tabletop would also suffice like in this example…

Other possible furniture items include chairs, a tabletop, a larger table, and sculptures of any kind as long as you are able to cut and mold a large pile of books.

If you have a crazy amount of books you could also just create a whole new bookcase.

#19 Make Seedling Pots

Paper is a great material to use for seedling pots. Paper from old books makes the perfect material to hold soil for sprouting seeds.

#20 Fire Fuel & Starters

Old book paper is also a great material for campfires. If you love to camp an old book is great to bring along for campfire material. You could throw dry balls of paper into a campfire or make paper logs and paper bricks.

#21 Book Pages as Gift Wrap

Why buy wrapping paper with book paper patterns on it when you have old book paper ready to use for wrapping small gifts. Old book paper could be pasted onto a cardboard box to make a gift box or just use the paper to wrap items. This kind of gift wrapping would not only save you money but also be perfect for a book-loving friend or loved one.

With the origami skills from #14, you could make a bow to go along with the book papered box or wrapped gift

#22 Drop Your Books Off at a Recycling Center

You could also drop your books off at a recycling center near you. Better than putting them in the trash you can get rid of them quickly.

Extra Tips For Recycling Your Old Books

Paperback books can be very easy to recycle. Hardcover books or Other covered books can be a little bit more difficult. Tackling different projects based on the material of the cover of your books can be a way to efficiently recycle your old and unwanted books.

Preventing a pile-up of unwanted books in the first place really helps. I recently started researching books that I want to read and borrowing them before purchasing to reduce waste.

I tried to get as much in here as I could. And at the end of this, there are definitely some projects I wanted to try. Like the book-made coffee table, that’s definitely getting an attempt or 2. Many of these methods are great for family projects and classroom projects. You could even get do some interior decorating with papier mâche vases and sculptures.

See my Pinterest board full of inspiration and examples of recycling old books. There were so many more pictures and Pins that I wanted to put into this blog post. So I put them on this board for you to easily find and be inspired.

Okay – I’d like to go try one of these methods now…

Don’t just be a good writer, be a great one!
Until my next words (on here that is),

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