Used book collection to begin in Newton

COVINGTON -- Newton residents will soon have an option to give their old books a second life.

County officials recently agreed to partner with Better World Books, a company that collects used books to recycle, sell or donate.

As early as mid-January, bins will be placed at neighborhood recycling centers throughout the county along with a few locations in downtown Covington. Residents can toss in unwanted books for pick up by Better World Books.

Fifteen percent of proceeds from books sold by the company will go back to the county, with 10 percent benefitting the solid waste fund and 5 percent benefitting a local literacy-focused non-profit. Chairman Kathy Morgan has recommended that the Newton County Library System be the benefactor.

Books that cannot be sold will be recycled or donated to literacy charities throughout the nation. There is no cost to the county.

James Peters, executive director at the Newton County Landfill, recommended the county participate in the program after he learned of it through the Solid Waste Association of North America's Georgia Chapter.

"All we've got to do is give them the location to put the boxes and nothing else," Peters said.

A monitoring system in the drop boxes alerts Better World Books when the bins are full and ready for pick up, said Steve Ward, business development manager for the company.

The company was founded in 2003 by two students attending the University of Notre Dame, who discovered they could get only about 10 cents on the dollar by reselling their used books at the campus bookstore. After more success selling the books online, they wrote up a business plan built around the concept of starting a social enterprise company and won a cash prize of $7,000 to start their venture.

"I think what a lot of people don't understand is that every year, 60 to 65 million pounds of books wind up in Georgia's landfills," Ward said. "It's because people don't have any reasonable alternatives for disposing of books. A lot of recycling centers don't want them because they're difficult to recycle."

Better World Books will make sure that books that cannot be sold online are recycled or donated to various literacy charities nationwide, Ward said. To date, nearly 6 million books have been donated. For every book sold online, Better World Books will also donate a book to a non-profit.

"Because we are a social enterprise company, we are held to strict standards on how we treat the books. We make commitments from a social and environmental perspective that we must meet in order to maintain our corporate status. It's a fairly complicated process. We have received EPA's highest award the last three years in a row, as their small business partner of the year," Ward said.

Better World Books has operations in all 50 states and Canada, as well as a processing plant in the United Kingdom. About 650,000 books are processed each week. The company partners with colleges, universities and libraries around the country to collect old books they no longer wish to stock.

"We believe all those books have a second life," Ward said.

Funds generated depend on the amount of books donated and how many of those sell, Ward said. Drop boxes typically bring $50 to $200 per month, he said. Hall County in Georgia is comparable in size to Newton, and after three weeks of partnering with Better World Books, with 14 drop boxes, has collected more than 10,000 books.

"It just goes to show you people have books. They just don't know what to do with them," Ward said.

Walton, Cobb, DeKalb and Athens-Clarke are among the other Georgia counties partnering with Better World Books.

To date, Better World Books has helped non-profits raise almost $11 million and helped generate $7 million for local libraries.

"Money is just a piece of this," he said. It's more about making sure we're doing the right things for these books and they are not ending up in a landfill, and about the donation piece."

For more information, visit www.betterworldbooks.com.