Are Books Bad For the Environment?

are books bad for the environment

One way to reduce the impact of individual books on the environment is to check out a book from your local library. By doing so, you spread the impact of a single book out over a large community. Libraries are underused, but they can have an enormous impact. Studies have shown that fewer than one-third of Americans visit a local library monthly, and only half have visited in the past year. Despite this underutilization, the average community member still checks out seven books a year, including children’s books.

Print books have a lower carbon footprint than e-readers

The carbon footprint of printed books is much lower than that of e-readers. In comparison, printing books uses about 7.5 kg of CO2 per book. This amount can have a significant impact on large populations. Another reason to choose a printed book is its ease of reuse. Compared to e-readers, print books require less energy to produce and can be recycled.

Printed books are better for the environment than e-readers because their carbon footprint is reduced even before they reach their readers. This is because second-hand or library copies have a lower impact per reading than new ones. According to the Green Press Initiative study in 2008, the production of a new book produces around four kg of CO2.

One study estimated that a person can offset their Kindle’s carbon footprint by replacing two paper books per year. However, it also found that the average Kindle user would need to read nearly two hundred books to break even on the carbon footprint.

Paperbacks take longer to decompose than e-readers

While e-readers can be recycled, they still produce pollution from the battery fluids and toxic fumes that they release into the environment. This means that they are not a good way to dispose of books and can pollute ecosystems. But there are alternatives. You can take your e-reader to a charity shop for free recycling, or try the European Recycling Platform’s website for recycling locations.

Paperbacks take more resources to produce than e-readers. For example, manufacturing one Kindle uses more carbon than producing 30 print books. However, most avid readers can offset their CO2 emissions by switching to eBooks within a year. Although paper can be recycled, the process of de-inking paper leaves sludge that is harmful to the environment.

Recycling paperbacks is more difficult than recycling e-readers

Despite their widespread use, books and e-readers are not indestructible. Fortunately, responsible recycling methods are available. The European Recycling Platform website has a helpful search feature. Using the search bar, you can easily find recycling facilities that accept paperbacks and e-readers.

The average paperback weighs about four pounds. However, 320 million books are burned instead of being recycled, contributing to the growing problem of landfill capacity. Burning books is not only harmful to the environment but also releases toxins and chemicals into the atmosphere, which affects wildlife and the health of people.

Hardcover books, on the other hand, are more difficult to recycle. Hardcover books should be separated from their cover and spine before they are disposed of. However, paperback books can be recycled when they are dry. However, they should be kept separate from other items, such as newspapers, magazines, or other paper products.

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