Books – from covering to end-of-life

Aug 16, 2022 | books

Heard of nose-to-tail eating? This involves utilising the entire animal for increased sustainability in agriculture. But how about prologue-to-epilogue, foreword-to-afterword, or even preface to appendix for book usage?

Libraries have always championed sustainability. Our core business of lending books is the epitome of REDUCE and REUSE, but the RECYCLE is not as good as it could be.

Many libraries give their old books a new home via book sales, giveaways, donation to charity and re-purposing for craft and display. However, in preparing books for heavy usage by covering them in plastic, the covers are no longer recyclable. The plastic contact wrap, its backing paper and spine reinforcement tape are not recyclable and end up as landfill.

Some libraries remove the covers and recycle the pages, but this is only a partial solution. Given the thousands of books purchased by libraries every day, exploring more environmentally sustainable options is hugely important.

Some non-plastic options for covering are Raeco | SELF ADHESIVE FULLY BIODEGRADABLE BIOGUARD® and Book Covering – CoLibri Australia who supply machines that use recyclable polyethylene covering material. Plastic spine reinforcement tape can be replaced with readily available Kraft paper tape, which can even be customised. A dispenser makes for even easier use.

For books that aren’t suitable for covering with contact-style finishes, such as reference, periodicals or hard cover editions, removeable plastic covers can be reused many times over and then recycled via RedCycle programs. Many libraries already have soft plastic collection bins for patron use, but until there is Council collection of this product, libraries rely on staff members to drop off at collection points such as supermarkets. This should be embedded in staff roles and be compensated as such, not relied on as a gesture of good will.

If you outsource your book covering, you can also approach your supplier about providing these eco-friendly options.

Keep your eye out for more on this topic in November’s Solutions issue of INCITE.

By Natasha Allday, Teacher Librarian.

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