Road to Recycling

“What do you NOT want?”

I get this question from prospective donors all the time. Sometimes I think all our donors fall into one of two classes: a) My books are too good for you and b) You’re too good for my books. I’ve mentioned this before: I actually still meet people who say “You don’t take paperbacks, do you?” “You don’t take popular novels, do you?” “You don’t take (lowers her voice) cookbooks, do you?”

Why not? If they’re nice and clean (externally, of course; the text can be as smutty as it wants), people will buy them. Let’s just go over what I really don’t want.

Reader’s Digest Condensed Books and their ilk: We have nothing against these books, which were, in their heyday, the last illustrated fiction for adults. But there are so many of them that the market for these is going to be dead for years to come. They are kind of pretty, though, and decent reading, so half the houses in Cook County probably have a twenty or thirty year supply. If we accepted them, we’d need to buy another building.

Popular magazines: We feel the same about your unread New Yorkers and National Geographics: yes, they are nice. But there are so many available that we wouldn’t have room to store them and nobody’s willing to pay more than a nickel apiece. Yes, the same goes for Architectural Digest and Gourmet. We do take SOME magazines. AND we take the map inserts out of the Geographics and sell those. When in doubt, toss it in. Just remember that a volunteer who picks up a box and finds it is full of National Geographics is going to call you something as unoriginal as it is unpoetic

Cans of Cranberry Gel: You’re thinking of the Chicago Food Depository.

Textbooks: Did you know that stripey Economics textbook by Professor Samuelson is one of the bestselling books in the history of the United States? I know it, because people keep giving it to me. Did you know that that algebra textbook from 1895 is NOT worth much more than a buck? Yes, we do sell SOME, especially in esoteric topics like forensics or archaeology. And we have a soft spot in our hearts for those beat-up, scribbled-on school readers from 1923.  But honest, they aren’t easy to sell.

Books which have been underlined, highlighted, and scribbled in until they are barely readable: I get at least one person every year who says, “But wouldn’t it be interesting to read what someone else offered as textual criticism of The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood?” People ask me these things, but they never actually offer to buy the book. Something about too little time. Yeah. That’s the idea.

Those CD cases where you took the CD out and put them somewhere else but don’t know what to do with the case: ditto cassette cases, record jackets, DVD sleeves, etc. Not much use for ‘em, especially the kind where the write-up for what was in them in the first place is permanently attached. At the same time, let me say a few unoriginal and unpoetic words to those of you who, five years later, decide to give me the CDs, cassettes, and records when you’ve already thrown the containers away. No, guess I’m out of space for today. Let somebody else get on your case about that.

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