What Can You Do With Unwanted Books? 15 Best Ways to Recycle and Upcycle them!

I love reading books. In fact, I’m a hoarder of books, especially whenever a book sale pops up in town. I love books so much that I have a tower of them at home and I even use some of them as a monitor riser as of writing. 

And I’m still planning to welcome more books because reading teleports me and lets me experience a lot of things even if I’m not moving from my favorite reading spot. 

Things to do with unwanted books

But my love for books left me with a problem, I have so many that I don’t know where to place them and what to do with them anymore. So what can you do with unwanted books? 

Well, not really unwanted, it’s just that it’s time for them to find a new purpose, a new home, and a new reader to entice with their magical stories and joyous adventures.

Why choose to be eco-friendly when getting rid of unwanted books? 

Did you know that almost 320 million books are thrown away each year that did not even have a chance to be recycled or upcycled? That’s terribly a lot of books that go into our landfills each year, and disposing of them piles up on top of our global waste disposal problems. 

But there’s something we can do about it. Recycling and upcycling are some of the best ways to reduce waste which is an essential step to help protect our planet and environment. 

Even if you think it won’t do much, the collective effort of recycling and upcycling provides a huge impact in preserving our natural resources, a reduction in the use of fossil energy, and the rehabilitation of our ecosystem as well. 

Sustainability is the answer for a better tomorrow and we can do it by trying out these 15 ways you can do with your unwanted books! 

What can you do with unwanted books? 15 Ways to Recycle and Upcycle them! 

#1. Donate them!

Donating books is a great way to recyle

One man’s trash is another man’s treasure, in a very good way in this case. This is the first and most logical thing to do with old or unwanted books. 

If you’ve already enjoyed reading the book and you feel like it needs to find a new home the best thing for you to consider is to donate it. There will be a lot of charity or goodwill who will welcome the books with open arms. 

You can also opt to donate them to libraries, schools, nursing homes, local orphanages, and even prisons. 

They may be unwanted books that you think you need to let go of but you’ll never know whose hand your unwanted books will end up with and how they will find great value from it the way you did! 

#2. Pass them down to family or friends 

A mother reading a book to her child

Similar to donating, you can give your unwanted books to your family and friends especially school books or children books. This has been a practice in our family for quite some time already. 

Whenever my daughter has books that she has already outgrown, I offer them to my relatives and friends who have children that can greatly benefit from them. 

Last time I gave my daughter’s old kindergarten books to my niece who just turned 5 and after she uses the books, a few years they’ll find their way home back to me because my younger daughter will need them after a few years too—and the cycle goes on! 

It just shows how books are timeless and how reading gives way to nurture children’s minds and body helping them grow educated and mindful. 

#3. Sell or give them away online

selling books online

If you can’t find charities, family, or friends who would want your unwanted books you can always post them up online and you’ll be surprised as to how many people would want your old books. 

This is also a great way to make a few extra bucks because you can sell them at a reasonable price as well. 

Some post bulks of books for a price of take all, it’s like you’re giving them away but the best part is that you’re earning at the same time as well, and that sounds like a good bargain—you get to clear up your old bookshelf to welcome home new books with what you earned from selling your unwanted ones. 

Sites like craigslist.org and letgo.com, are a great place to start and even on Facebook Marketplace, we all know how everyone is on Facebook now. Social media is one of the easiest ways you can find new homes for your books. 

#4. Off with them in the Recycle bin!

reduce, reuse, recycle on a notebook cover

If you have books that are no longer usable and that the paperbacks are already torn and pages have already gone missing, it might be high time for them to hit the hay and go on to the recycling process. 

But do keep in mind that recycling books is a different process and they can’t just go straight into the recycling bin like other materials. It’s best to try to contact a local recycling center and ask them for help to know what’s the best resolution for those unwanted books. 

The process might seem tedious but mother nature will be thanking you for making the effort of choosing to do it the sustainable way! 

#5. Create a movement

a free books box

This one is great for the social cause, make a “Free Books” box where everyone can pick up or drop off books anytime they want. It’s like a mini-community library that you can create and share your books that others can gain from. 

Best to find a spot where you know foot traffic is great and where it is in sight of people’s eyes while they’re walking by or waiting for something. Some great locations are bus stops, subway stations, by your dentist’s waiting room (make sure to ask permission first!), and many more. 

And of course, the school would also be the best spot for this! You’ll never know it might soon be a thing that will be stuck with the community and start a tradition! 

#6. Jewelry box

This might sound unbelievable but it is possible to create a beautiful jewelry box from old books! It’s best to use books that are still in good condition for your vision to pull through. 

For the materials, all you need are: 

-A book that’s about 1 ½ inch thick
-Acrylic craft paint in the color of your choice
-Mod podge gloss
-a paintbrush
-an X-acto knife
-some glue
-a pencil
-a ruler
-And decorative pieces of your choice

To give you a fiery inspiration, you can watch this amazing video from The O’Neil Sisters as they make their aesthetic vintage jewelry box from an old book. 

#7. Plant holder

Another amazing idea to give new life to your unwanted books is to turn them into a plant holder! I just love this idea that I already planned to make one for my little plants in the next few days or so. 

For this idea, you can either use live plants or artificial ones if you’re doubting your green thumb at the moment, but the good thing is once you have finished this project it will surely be a conversation starter once you have guests over!

For the materials you’ll need:

-Live or artificial succulents depending on your preference

-Old and unwanted book/s (depending on how many you want to make)

-Soil, moss, and rocks or pebbles

-Mod podge

-X-acto knife

-Acrylic paint of your choice and a paintbrush

-Glue or Hot glue

And to give you a glimpse of how this project will turn out after you’re finished, check out this gorgeous creation from Neverending Creations!

#8. Aesthetic bookmarks

Who knew that you can upcycle books to use them alongside other books again? The upcycling ideas are endless!

You can use two parts of the books for this; the spine and the book pages. The spine is much more ideal to use since it is constructed to be harder and sturdier but you can use a cardstock for the book pages to make it firmer as well. 

To make the bookmarks you’ll need:

-book spine or book pages

-card stock (optional if you’re going to use book pages)

-Yarn, jute strings, ribbons, or threads

-markers or pencils

-watercolors and a brush (optional as well)



For a quick tutorial, you can watch this helpful video below for guidance. 

#9. Create enchanting pouches/envelopes

If you love eye-pleasing aesthetics, you’ll love this upcycling tip that you can do with unwanted book pages. 

I really love this idea because instead of purchasing new envelopes or pouches to use when you need them you can just grab a few pages from your unwanted books and create something magical and lovely as well. 

You will surely impress anyone to who you will give this envelope or pouch! You can use it to encase gifts, letters, or just anything that will fit into the envelope or pouch that you will make. 

For the materials to make the envelope or pouches, you’ll need book pages from old and unwanted books, needles and thread, and any decorative pieces that you’ll want to add. Each one is also unique and one is never the same as the other each time you make them!

Check out this video on how to make them below! 

#10. Knife block

This one is a very interesting idea and is just out-of-this-world creative! Who knew that you can use unwanted books as a knife block! I give my hats off to the person who invented this idea. 

If you love farmhouse designs then you really must try this one out! To create this masterpiece you just need at least 4 old books preferably in different sizes and in colors that go together. Next is hot glue, and some twine to put all the books together and to finish off the rustic look. 

And to see what the finished product will look like, check out this awesome video! 

#11. A Wreath!

One of the many things that you can do with unwanted books is a wreath! 

No need to buy one from the department store for the next holiday because all you need are book pages from old books and you’ll surely wow and impress everyone by making a beautiful and rustic paper wreath all by yourself. 

All you need to do is tear a number of pages from an old book that you like, preferably books with darker hues to add to the rustic effect and roll them into cones or paper rolls and stick them to a foam ring or cardboard until fully covered with hot glue. 

And there you have it, with a little love and patience you’ll have your very own upcycled elegant paper wreath. 

To convince you that you need to try making this soon, watch this quick video down below.

#12. Junk Journal

Did you know that you can use your unwanted books to write your own book? Well, not literally a book, but you can make a cool junk journal with it! 

One day I came across a blog post all about making junk journals, and ever since I was hooked! 

I really love the idea of creating a handmade book made up of recycled items such as different sheets of paper from magazines, musical sheets, patterned paper, paper bags, and just about anything that you can write on properly. 

There’s even a community of people sharing really cool stuff and how they create their very unique junk journals online and the inspiring ideas are amazing. 

To give you a glance at how a junk journal looks, check the video below! 

#13. Book lamp

When reading a book at night, we always need to be near a lamp so that we’ll be able to read properly right? But what if you can make a lamp entirely out of books? Sounds interesting right? 

But yes! You can make a book lamp with just a few books and the end result is just stunning! 

Check out this in-depth tutorial below!

#14. Desk Organizer

We all need a desk organizer to help keep everything in place, especially in a teacher’s desk. But desk organizer designs might seem boring at times but don’t fret because you can make an awesome and unique one from your unwanted books! 

Patience and determination are key for this project but you’ll love the end result because you get to save some bucks and be eco-friendly at the same time as well! 

Watch this video below to see how you can create a desk organizer from an old and unwanted book!

#15. Wall art

We already went over how to create a wreath, a knife block, and even a lamp from unwanted books. And it’s just clear to see that they’re a great use for decoration, right? 

And for the last entry for our list on what to do with unwanted books is to use them for wall art! You can easily bring life to a boring wall with unwanted books and you can try to check out the video below for some inspiration. 

In light of these facts, 

I hope that when you next find a crate of unwanted books you first consider giving them a new life by recycling or upcycling them just like how I showed you in today’s article, there are surely many ways you can put your unwanted books to good use.

Bookworms and booklovers around the world are in agreement: old books have a special charm. The options of what to do with them are practically limitless; all you have to do is find a creative way to give them a new purpose. With a little time, elbow grease, and know-how, you’ll be amazed by what you can accomplish with old unwanted books!

Until our next one, happy crafting!