Plant growing from an old opened book

March 3, 2022, by Sarah

Sustainability Action Week: Recycling library books to reduce waste

We regularly remove books from our library shelves, for example to make space for new editions of titles or because we’ve worked with academics to identify items which are no longer required to support teaching and research. This year’s Annual Library Book Stock Review has just opened. As it’s Sustainability Action Week, we thought we’d remind you about what happens to any books we remove from our shelves.

Since 2015, we’ve sent discarded stock to Better World Books (BWB), a for-profit, socially conscious business. In addition to charitable donations of books, BWB try to sell our old stock. The full 10.5% commission goes to our chosen Literacy Partner, Read International (founded by UoN Alumni to improve the quality of education in Tanzania).

To date, we’ve donated almost £16,800 to Read International and the equivalent of more than 1,600 trees have been reused or recycled! If you’d like to know more, we’ve written a series of blog posts.

Anything that BWB can’t sell or donate is recycled. Books, particularly those with hardback covers, contain materials such as threads, glue, and plastics. The recyclers that BWB work with are able to yield 97% of a book as usable fibre. Since we started working with BWB, 60,256 books have been recycled into usable fibre – that’s the equivalent of around 959 trees!

If you’d like to find out more, contact us at

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