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Hall seeks to turn old books into new money
County joins with private firm for new recycling pilot
Hall County and Better World Books have partnered together for a new book reuse/recycling program featuring these drop boxes at county compactor sites. - photo by Tom Reed

Every year, more than 2 billion pounds of books wind up in landfills nationwide.

With the new recycling pilot in the Sardis and Flowery Branch areas, Hall County officials feared that number would rise. The new program didn't have a way for residents to turn in books.

"It's one of the few things that aren't acceptable," said Rick Foote, natural resources coordinator for Hall County. "We've been doing book recycling for years but the (new system) kind of left books in the air out of a loophole."

The solution was for the county to partner with Better World Books, a U.S.-based online book seller.

"These are books that have a second life and people just end up dumping them in the trash," said Steve Ward, business development director for the company's Alpharetta branch. "We're providing Hall County with an alternative to disposing of books."

There are Better World Books drop boxes at each of the Hall County compactor sites, plus one at the recycling center, Foote said.
Ward said the company accepts any and all books.

"We could actually increase revenue (with this partnership)," Foote said. "The issue with selling a book to a recycler, it's basically regarded as a scrap item. ... With Better World Books, they actually resell the books."

Ten percent of sales go back to the county and an addition 5 percent will be given to Keep Hall Beautiful, Foote said.

The county's proceeds would go to the Solid Waste Enterprise Fund, which is where all money from the sale of recyclables goes. That fund pays for Foote's department, the landfill and compactor sites.

If the books don't sell, Ward said they are either donated to a charity or are recycled. He said the company has donated about 6 million books so far.

"In one year, a typical drop box gathers about 10,700 pounds of books," Ward said. "It saves 156 trees, 25,000 kilowatt hours and 58,000 gallons of water from one drop box."

Multiply that by the amount of boxes in Hall County, and that's the environmental impact of the partnership.

Hall County officials used to have to strip the bindings off books to be sent to recyclers, but with the books being resold, they are only in charge of collecting them.

"It reduces our workload and we can do an additional volume of materials," Foote said. "I know the commissioners were very excited by the project."

Better World Books began in 2003, when two Notre Dame students were frustrated they could not sell their textbooks back to the campus bookstore for a good price. They created the company as part of a business plan competition at the university and won $7,000 to start it.

Since then, the company expanded to offices in all 50 states, Canada and the United Kingdom, Ward said.

Hall County will join Cobb County, Metro-Atlanta, Henry County, Athens and Jackson County as one of the many Georgia areas partnering with Better World Books.

Ward said there were already 6,000 books ready for pickup in Hall County, despite the program being less than a month old.


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