Why can’t books be recycled?

Recent news reports have highlighted the fact that charity shops are staggering under the weight of donated copies of the ‘mummy porn’ blockbuster series Fifty Shades Of Grey. Apparently, people are buying the books, finding out that they’re the most unbelievable piles of tosh, and giving them away. We don’t blame them, to be honest, because they’re the most unbelievable piles of tosh.

book waste

This follows the long tradition of people buying the current literary fashion, finding them not to their taste and doing anything to get them out of their lives forever. There’s barely a charity shop in the country where you can’t pick up the entire Dan Brown canon for a pound a time (while the CD and DVD shelves are rarely without copies of All Saints discs and The Matrix Reloaded), copies of which have been piling up in store rooms everywhere.

According to the Daily Telegraph, Cancer Research UK say that no sooner do they sell one copy of Fifty Shades than they get two in return, like some kind of literary boomerang. Looking forward to the film-of-the-book that’s due next year as a way to shift stock, Cancer Research say: “We always welcome donations, but the secondary sales potential of the novels is a big problem. Nobody wants it any more.”

With so many of the estimated 5.3 million Fifty Shades books going to charity shops, why can they send them to be recycled? The simple answer is that they can’t. The problem is that the glue which holds books together means that paperbacks are generally unsuitable to be pulped, meaning that we are now a nation that’s swimming in vast oceans of unwanted badly-written erotica.

While it might be possible to guillotine books to separate the paper from their spines, it would be a difficult time-consuming process that would probably not be worth the expense.

So, if you have an unwanted book, don’t put it in your recycling – we can’t use it. It’ll only go to landfill, or (and this will make us sound like the worst people in the world) give them away. Waiting rooms are good. Just not the Fifty Shades.

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