Creative Uses for Unwanted Printed Matter

Recycle symbol- paperMany people recycle newspapers and computer paper through their municipal services or private vendors. But what about books, magazines and other printed matter you are no longer in need of? Here are some creative ideas for disposing of it responsibly.
• Books can find a happy home in many places. Local libraries often generate substantial revenues from the sale of donated books, as do some schools. In some cases, these sales close the gap between state funding and real need. Ask about restrictions. Some libraries, for example, cannot accept encyclopedias older than a certain number of years, or magazines. If books are moldy or mildewed, they should be discarded in the trash.
• Fine artists, graphic designers and illustrators, especially those specializing in collage, love old books. They use not only the illustrations but also text pages in their creations. Same goes for old musical scores and instrumental instruction books. Contact your local artists’ society or school art department.
• Homeless shelters, battered women’s shelters and free clinics are often in need of reading material. Books and magazines that are in good condition will often be gratefully accepted by these charitable organizations operating on donated funds.
• Quality children’s books in excellent condition can be donated to the pediatric unit of hospitals. Also, areas that have suffered great natural disasters, such as states hit by flooding and forest fires, often lose the contents of their libraries in the wake of the disaster. Donations of books to schools and libraries in affected areas can be one solution to the problem.
• Host a swap night, or feature a swap table at the next meeting of an organization to which you belong. Everyone brings some books to add to the table, and people take the ones they want. Those that do not find new homes that night can be donated elsewhere.
• Magazines of appropriate content are a welcome donation in pre-schools, church Sunday schools and day care centers. The children can cut or tear up pictures and words for use in projects and crafts.
Humane societies can use old newspapers for training incoming animals and lining crates.
• You might find a use for old newspapers in your own home. Save a stack or two for wrapping fine breakables for storage, packaging up garage sale items you’ve sold, or sending fragile items through the mail. Some people swear by wadded up newspapers as the very best way to get streak-free windows. Simply spray on a solution of vinegar and water or store-bought glass cleaner, then wipe clean with balled-up newspapers for sparkling effects.
• Newspapers can be put to excellent use in the landscape. Since they are now printed with soy-based inks that are not harmful to soil or groundwater, you can lay a thick layer of damp newspaper under decorative mulch to keep your garden weed-free and attractive for a much longer period of time. Brown paper grocery bags work well, too. This technique can be used not only in shrubbery beds and perennial gardens but also between rows in vegetable gardens. If the newspaper is applied in spring to a vegetable garden, it will be easily roto-tilled back into the soil by the following spring.
• Old newspapers can also be an effective method for starting a new garden. Instead of employing the back-breaking work of removing sod by hand, try this slower but easier approach: Lay down a two- or three-inch layer of damp newspaper in the area you wish to create a new bed. Cover with shredded leaves, compost, grass clippings and, if you desire a neat appearance right away, some decorative landscape mulch. Weed on occasion. Three or four months later, the grass will be killed and the remaining soil and nutrient-rich layers on top can be tilled into the ground. Add some additional top soil and compost and your garden is ready to be planted.

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