by David Goldstein
Clarey Rudd has worked in 15 book stores since his parents started their first one in Oxnard in 1954, and he currently owns Abednego Book Store and Bank of Books in Ventura. He has seen recycling options for books change over the years. “They [recyclers] said glue, [low quality] paper and ink made books unrecyclable,” he remembered.
With that background, he became adept at selling every new and used book entering his inventory, finding ways to sell at a discount books he could not sell at standard prices. Even though books are now accepted in both commercial mixed recycling bins and residential curbside recycling carts throughout Ventura County, Rudd still does everything he can to keep books in circulation rather than resorting to recycling.
He held a massive book giveaway following the Thomas Fire, and he is about to have another as an incentive for people to get their COVID shots. He also offers 50% trade-in credit on used books in exchange for books customers deliver to his store. Rudd also discounts books to one dollar and shares databases with other small book stores, matching books available with customers worldwide who want books. Although the amount of labor required to ensure a book is reused rather than recycled cannot always be justified by the sale price of the book, “It’s values,” he explained, “Books should be read, not [turned into] products.”
Of course, all books eventually reach a point of no return, and developing ways to recycle books into products has been vital for keeping books out of landfills. Daniel Marks, CEO of Berg Mill Supply Company, explained how companies like his found recycling opportunities for books during a time when Chinese-based recyclers stopped accepting paper from the United States. He established relationships with recyclers in India, who altered corporate strategy to target American low-grade mixed paper, turning the material into pulp. Although India itself does not yet have the infrastructure to use all the pulp, this intermediate step created a product with enough value to be re-exported to paper converters capable of using pulp, but not raw paper.
Berg Mill markets material collected by Ventura County recycling companies, but it also directly collects material and will pay for books delivered in quantities of 20 or more gaylords. A gaylord is a large cardboard box capable of holding approximately 1,000 books.
One convenient option for local book reuse and recycling has contracted during the pandemic, but is poised to rebuild. In the past year, American Book Drive withdrew its drop boxes from Ventura County and closed its used book store in the Thousand Oaks Mall. Now, the company’s only remaining physical location in Ventura County is the $5 or Less Bookstore in Simi Valley. The company also collects books by request, with a minimum donation of 200 books, CDs or DVDs. Account Manager Veronica Cashman said the company plans to restore its Ventura County presence and would like to hear from property owners willing to host book collection bins on their property. Bins are the size and shape of thrift store donation kiosks, and donors can decide if proceeds should benefit the Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, the Susan Komen Foundation to combat breast cancer, or other charities.
Most libraries, through library support groups, accept donations of books. For example, used book sales by Friends of the Thousand Oaks Library generate approximately $190,000 per year to support programs ranging from literacy promotion to aquarium maintenance, according to Vice President Janet Doman. In normal times, donors use drop off boxes at the library, but during the past year, donation has been appointment-based, arranged through the organization’s website, ftol.org
Books free of mold, mildew or water stains may also be donated to thrift stores; sold on sites such as eBay, Craigslist, or OfferUp; or given away through sites such as Freecycle or bookmooch.com.
David Goldstein is a Ventura County Public Works Environmental Resource Analyst, and may be reached at 805-658-4312 or email@example.com.