Penticton, B.C., man saves used books from landfill, re-distributes to community libraries

Click to play video: 'Old Books  Waste or Recycling' Old Books Waste or Recycling
A Penticton man scavenges for used books in the recycling bins at the Campbell Mountain landfill near Penticton, B.C., and re-distributes them to community libraries. As Shelby Thom reports, Tony Davis is also raising questions as to why so many perfectly good books are getting dumped instead of donated. – Jan 28, 2021

Tony Davis is a freelance writer and his passion for books extends far beyond pen and paper.

“Books and reading have always been a part of my life,” he said. “I’m definitely a fan of non-fiction.”

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That’s why Davis said he was surprised to discover hundreds of discarded books at the Campbell Mountain landfill near Penticton, B.C.

“Some of these books are in mint condition, they are books that are in demand by readers, and yet they are in these bins at the landfill.”

The avid reader had the novel idea to re-distribute the books to community libraries around Penticton.

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Some examples of the books Tony Davis retrieved from the landfill near Penticton, B.C. Submitted

“There are nine community libraries in Penticton. People can bring books for free and take books for free, and I thought, maybe some of these better books in the bin I could re-distribute and people would have something to read,” Davis said.

But he also questioned why perfectly good books are being dumped instead of donated.

Global News contacted several charities and thrift stores in Penticton, who said they are already inundated with donated books and can’t re-sell or give away all of them.

Some even said donated books end up back in the same recycling bins at the landfill.

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“Recycling is a better option than being thrown in the landfill,” said Cam Baughen, solid waste management coordinator with the Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen, which operates the landfill.

“A lot of these small businesses and charities don’t have the resources to get rid of all those books, they are just not in demand, including the Encyclopedias, textbooks, damaged books, so we provide the services to those businesses and charities to help them recycle those,” he said.

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Since 2014, the regional district has hired Planet Earth Recycling in West Kelowna to recycle discarded books. The cost ranges from $150-$350 per month, Baughen said.

“This is because the Province of B.C. excluded books from having to have a required recycling program under the Recycling Regulation,” he added.

The books are transported to the West Kelowna depot, which is the graveyard for damaged and unsellable books.

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However, Planet Earth Recycling president Paul Marois said approximately ten metric tons of books are salvaged every month.

“The good books we package up and we ship them to a company in Portland, Ore. called where they get re-sold on the Internet at discount prices.”

Planet Earth is paid four cents per pound for the books they ship off to the U.S. company, Marois says.

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They also pick up unwanted books directly from non-profits and thrift stores across the Okanagan.

“It’s a great idea to donate books to thrift stores, it helps them, it helps the non-profits.”

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However, Marois says even thrift stores don’t want certain books.

“There are certain kinds of books that are pointless to donate to a thrift store like Encyclopedias, out of date cookbooks, out of date textbooks, damaged books — you are not really helping the non-profit thrift stores by giving them those kinds of books,” Marois said.

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Davis hopes the community can enter a new chapter and find a way to give old books new life, locally.

“It is a little perturbing that there isn’t a better pathway for these books to get into the hands of readers right here in our own community,” he said.

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