The most recommended recycling books

Who picked these books? Meet our 12 experts.

12 authors created a book list connected to recycling, and here are their favorite recycling books.
Shepherd is reader supported. When you buy books, we may earn an affiliate commission.

Book cover of Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things

Sarah Winkler Author Of Recycling For Dummies

From my list on challenging our understanding of waste.

Why am I passionate about this?

As a youngster I used to drive my parents crazy because I was so passionate about recycling. I rekindled this passion about five years ago and started Everyday Recycler. Through my website I help people improve their recycling habits by offering actionable instructions with a focus on explaining how recycling works and its intrinsic value. I also advocate strongly for recycled products. I believe that by purchasing recycled products, we can help generate demand for the materials we toss in our recycling bin and contribute to the overall success of recycling. These works have educated and inspired me over the years. I hope they inspire you as much.

Sarah's book list on challenging our understanding of waste

Sarah Winkler Why did Sarah love this book?

Cradle to Cradle challenges conventional approaches to design and sustainability.

The authors present a compelling vision for a world where products are created with a 'waste equals food' philosophy, imitating natural systems by reusing resources and eliminating harmful waste. The books struck me as being both encouraging and depressing at the same time, a sentiment I get from many other sustainable and recycling books.

However this is the reality of the complex world of materials we have created for ourselves and one we must come to grips with. Unfortunately change can be slow, so even though this book was written two decades ago it remains relevant today and offers a pragmatic roadmap for the future. 

By William McDonough, Michael Braungart,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Cradle to Cradle as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

How can we avoid environmental disaster? Nowadays, in the home, most of us do our bit: we recycle. But what about industry, where the real damage is done? The strategy is the same: 'reduce, resize, reuse' - we try to minimize the damage. But there is a limitation to this well-intentioned approach: it maintains the one-way, 'cradle to grave' manufacturing model of the Industrial Revolution, the very model that creates immense amounts of waste and pollution in the first place.What we need is a major rethink, a new approach which directly combats the problem rather than slowly perpetuating it. An…


Book cover of Waste and Want: A Social History of Trash

John H. Sibley Author Of Being and Homelessness: notes from an underground artist

From my list on understanding homelessness and existentialism.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a Chicago-based artist, author, veteran, and teacher. I studied at the American Academy of Art in Chicago before enlisting in the United States Air Force in 1968 during the bloody Tet Offensive during the Vietnam era. Upon my discharge I got my BFA in 1994. I got convicted for a crime I did not commit, and I became a homeless-existential artist on Chicago’s mean streets for six months. I got hired by an Acoustic company, and I married and worked for twenty-seven years while raising a family. I now work as an art teacher. All my nonfiction books chronicle different episodes in my life. 

John's book list on understanding homelessness and existentialism

John H. Sibley Why did John love this book?

Years ago, I was a janitor. When I would take a shower, it was like I could never get the stench off my body. I like Susan Strasser’s book because it reminds me of the waste I use to clean up daily. She examines the most unprecedented commonplace act of throwing things out and how it has transformed American society.

Her classic book about trash world culture is fascinating to me because, in the last hundred years, the way of life has been replaced by mass consumption, disposable goods, and waste on an unimaginable scale. Her book could easily be used as a metaphor for the ‘homeless,’ whom some view as “disposable’ goods. Her book illustrates that what counts as trash depends on who counts it, and what we throw away defines us as much as we keep it.

Strasser argues that in Western society, popular understanding of cleanliness, gender,…

By Susan Strasser, Alice Austen (photographer),

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Waste and Want as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

An unprecedented look at that most commonplace act of everyday life-throwing things out-and how it has transformed American society.

Susan Strasser's pathbreaking histories of housework and the rise of the mass market have become classics in the literature of consumer culture. Here she turns to an essential but neglected part of that culture-the trash it produces-and finds in it an unexpected wealth of meaning.

Before the twentieth century, streets and bodies stank, but trash was nearly nonexistent. With goods and money scarce, almost everything was reused. Strasser paints a vivid picture of an America where scavenger pigs roamed the streets,…


Book cover of Microshelters: 59 Creative Cabins, Tiny Houses, Tree Houses, and Other Small Structures

Jeanie and David Stiles Author Of Cabins: A Guide to Building Your Own Nature Retreat

From my list on that will inspire you to build your own cabin or nature home.

Why are we passionate about this?

We have written 27 “how-to” books on building outdoor projects, including cabins, sheds, and treehouses. David does the illustrations and I do the descriptive writing. Our goal is to make the instructions clear to both right and left brain readers – and to make the two elements complement each other. Our readers often tell us that a computer drawing does not have the same appeal and clarity as hand drawing. We are able to ‘talk’ a reader through the process of building something with our drawings. People often send us photographs of their completed projects – it’s a big part of the satisfaction we get from writing our books.

Jeanie's book list on that will inspire you to build your own cabin or nature home

Jeanie and David Stiles Why did Jeanie love this book?

Lots of color photos and enthusiastic commentary by the author, as well as six sets of affordable building plans. Deek specializes in using recycled and salvaged materials. He also uses a clear plastic Tuftex polycarbonate as a material, which is inexpensive, easy to install, and allows light in. A good book for beginner and intermediate builders.   

By Diedricksen,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Microshelters as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Created by an assembly of leading designers, architects, and bloggers, these 57 unique and innovative designs will show you the limits of what is possible. All of the designs include beautiful full-colour photos along with floor plans and building tips; 15 of them include flushed-out concept sketches; and five include step-by-step building plans. You'll also find guidelines on building with recycled and salvaged materials, plus techniques for making your small space comfortable and easy to inhabit.


Book cover of Smart Polyurethane Shape Memory Polymers

P Chakravarthy Author Of Shape Memory Materials

From my list on the world of smart materials.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a faculty in Materials Science and along with my colleague researcher Dr. Arun DI, I have published many research articles in the field of Smart materials, specifically shape-memory materials. We have developed Polyurethane based space-grade shape-memory nanocomposite and have proven electro-active shape memory effect with the highest recovery efficiency reported so far. We are continuing our research in the field of smart and intelligent materials which we believe will benefit the advanced application fields such as space exploration.

P's book list on the world of smart materials

P Chakravarthy Why did P love this book?

Details about the polyurethane shape memory mechanism have been explained at a molecular level, which will be useful for beginners as well as researchers. Analytical understanding of such phenomenon is significant while dealing with fabrication, characterization, and application. These aspects are well covered in this book which are useful for undergraduate students and beginners.

By Manzoor Ahmad,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Smart Polyurethane Shape Memory Polymers as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Shape memory polymers (SMPs) possess a unique property of retaining their original shapes upon external stimulation and have been widely used in engineering, space exploration and particularly in medical devices. Polyurethane based SMPs (SMPUs) are an emerging class of this types of smart materials. This book shows methods to synthesize various polyurethane SMPUs with tailored thermomechanical and shape memory properties by uisng various polyol soft segments and combinations of diisocyanides hard segments, and presents a formula to synthsize reprocessable and recyclable SMPUs which allows recycling of end-of-life SMPU products in industrial scale and can significantly reduce the impact of polymer…


Book cover of Rainbow Weaver/Tejedora del Arcoiris

Laura Resau Author Of Tree of Dreams

From my list on inspiring kids to protect our environment.

Why am I passionate about this?

As a lover of nature and travel, I’ve long been interested in how communities worldwide protect their environments. While living and traveling in Latin America, I learned how Indigenous knowledge and practices make our planet healthier for everyone. Several of my ten children’s books deal with these issues, including my novel Tree of Dreams, inspired by my time in the Amazon rain forest with a Huaorani community whose home was threatened by oil operations. This led me to collaborate with the Kichwa leader, Patricia Gualinga, on the picture book, Stand as Tall as the Trees: How an Amazonian Community Protected the Rain Forest, available in English and Spanish in July, 2023.

Laura's book list on inspiring kids to protect our environment

Laura Resau Why did Laura love this book?

Since my son was adopted from Guatemala and I’ve traveled there several times, I was drawn to this colorful picture book. In the Mayan highlands, young Ixchel’s mother has no thread to spare for her to weave. Determined, Ixchel searches for her own material, and ultimately discovers that the plastic bags littering her village are just what she needs. She cuts them into strips, weaves her own creations, and sells them at the market—which also makes her village more beautiful. This book shows the power of resourcefulness while offering glimpses of Mayan culture and showing how kids can make a difference. As a multi-lingual mom, I especially love that this book has English and Spanish text, making it a perfect pick for those of us raising our kids to value other languages and cultures.

By Linda Elovitz Marshall, Elisa Chavarri (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Rainbow Weaver/Tejedora del Arcoiris as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 5, 6, 7, and 8.

What is this book about?

Ixchel wants to follow in the long tradition of weaving on backstrap looms, just as her mother, grandmother, and most Mayan women have done for more than two thousand years. But Ixchel's mother is too busy preparing her weavings for market. If they bring a good price, they will have money to pay for Ixchel s school and books. And besides, there is not enough extra thread for Ixchel to practice with.

Disappointed, Ixchel first tries weaving with blades of grass, and then with bits of wool, but no one would want to buy the results. As she walks around…


Book cover of Chattanooga Sludge

Sigrid Schmalzer Author Of Moth and Wasp, Soil and Ocean: Remembering Chinese Scientist Pu Zhelong's Work for Sustainable Farming

From my list on inspirational scientists for children.

Why am I passionate about this?

I'm a historian of science who specializes in modern China. My professional life revolves around teaching history at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and writing for academic audiences. But my not-so-secret dream has always been to write for children. I've been a regular visitor to the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art, where I've gorged on illustrated books for children. Encouraged by a chance meeting with a publisher’s representative attending an event at the Carle, I decided to distill my academic book, Red Revolution, Green Revolution: Scientific Farming in Socialist China, into a children’s story. I’m proud that my fans now include elementary-school students. (And at least one professional historian admitted he read the kids’ version first!)

Sigrid's book list on inspirational scientists for children

Sigrid Schmalzer Why did Sigrid love this book?

This book is sadly out of print, but readers looking for a lavishly detailed and colorfully illustrated account of technology in the service of ecological restoration should hit the used book market and add this to their home libraries. It tells the story of John Todd, a scientist from Massachusetts who created  “Living Machines” that use biological processes to transform sewage into clean water. Meanwhile, down in Tennessee, factory pollution has turned Chattanooga Creek into a stream of sludge that poisons the land and sickens the residents. The city council invites Todd to visit, and Todd adapts his Living Machines to handle not just ordinary sewage, but toxic waste.

Bang’s illustrations bring the reader to the microscopic level and back again to show just how the ecological principles of the Living Machine work. We learn that success doesn’t come easily, and science alone will not fix every problem, but an…

By Molly Bang,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Chattanooga Sludge as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 8, 9, 10, and 11.

What is this book about?

The true story of John Todd's ingenious plan to clean toxic waste from a Tennessee creek describes the 150 years of pollution buildup that prompted his decision and his construction of the Living Machine. Children's BOMC Feat.


Book cover of Waste: Uncovering the Global Food Scandal

David Benton Author Of Tackling the Obesity Crisis: Beyond Failed Approaches to Lasting Solutions

From my list on understanding why you put on weight.

Why am I passionate about this?

Having studied diet and behavior for forty years, I realized that I had ignored obesity. However, after eventually considering the topic, I found that the actions of both politicians and the food industry had been spectacularly unhelpful. Why are so many people allowed to suffer? If politicians and the food industry are ineffective, there is a third group that could engineer change: the general public. It is scandalous that so many have been condemned to an early death following decades of ill-health. Something needs to change.

David's book list on understanding why you put on weight

David Benton Why did David love this book?

I learned how much food is wasted while so many people are hungry: in the USA, half of all food is wasted, and in the United Kingdom, 20 million tonnes of food are thrown out each year. Yet I also gained an implicit and unintended message: we need more than a good idea. I became certain that, although we need to understand the situation and have a plan, in industrialized countries, most dietary problems reflect a human reluctance to change behavior.  

It became clear to me that we need to factor in human behavior and offer more than good advice. Good ideas are often stymied by the reluctance of humans to change what they eat. For me, the unintended takeaway message was that the failure of attempts to encourage healthy eating, to a large extent, reflects paying too much attention to food. Rather, you need to concentrate on people as…

By Tristram Stuart,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Waste as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

With shortages, volatile prices and nearly one billion people hungry, the world has a food problem-or thinks it does. Farmers, manufacturers, supermarkets and consumers in North America and Europe discard up to half of their food-enough to feed all the world's hungry at least three times over. Forests are destroyed and nearly one tenth of the West's greenhouse gas emissions are released growing food that will never be eaten. While affluent nations throw away food through neglect, in the developing world crops rot because farmers lack the means to process, store and transport them to market.

But there could be…


Book cover of What a Waste: Trash, Recycling, and Protecting Our Planet

Erin Dealey Author Of Dear Earth...from Your Friends in Room 5

From my list on making Earth Day every day.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a teacher, author, & parent, determined to help keep our earth healthy for future generations. A few Earth Days ago, my students asked why we only set aside one day a year to practice eco-healthy habits. Good question! As a teacher, I know how crucial it is for authors to get our facts right. Before writing Dear Earth… I read stacks of books and articles on our environment. I am indebted to science expert & author Melissa Stewart, and my friend Patricia Newman (Plastic Ahoy!; Planet Ocean / Lerner), as well. I sincerely hope Dear Earth… and the books on my list inspire Earth Heroes everywhere--every day.

Erin's book list on making Earth Day every day

Erin Dealey Why did Erin love this book?

What a Waste is the perfect nonfiction pairing for Dear Earth, packed with in-depth information, not only on everyday habits that hurt our environment, but super important (and simple) actions Earth Heroes, young and old, can take to change these habits. I can just see the kids in Room 5 using this book as a reference each month for their eco-friendly projects.

By Jess French,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked What a Waste as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 7, 8, and 9.

What is this book about?

In this informative book on recycling for children, you will find everything you need to know about our environment. The good, the bad, and the incredibly innovative. From pollution and litter to renewable energy and plastic recycling.

This educational book will teach young budding ecologists about how our actions affect planet Earth and the big impact we can make by the little things we do.

Did you know that every single plastic toothbrush ever made still exists? Or that there is a floating mass of rubbish larger than the USA drifting around the Pacific Ocean?

It is not all bad…


Book cover of Ship Breaker

Lauren Yero Author Of Under This Forgetful Sky

From my list on seeking hope after the end of the world.

Why am I passionate about this?

Can stories bring a human scale to something as all-encompassing as climate change? In 2011, I began an MA in Literature and Environment with this question weighing on my mind. I finished my degree two years later with a draft of my debut novel, Under This Forgetful Sky. I’ve come to understand the climate crisis, in many ways, as a crisis of imagination. Its enormity tests the limits of the imaginable. What if the world as we know it ends? What would life look like on the other side? The books on this list reckon with the fears these questions bring while also gesturing beautifully, unsentimentally, courageously toward hope. 

Lauren's book list on seeking hope after the end of the world

Lauren Yero Why did Lauren love this book?

Kicking off this list are a few stand-out young adult titles in the climate fiction (or “cli-fi”) genre.

Ship Breaker is a speculative YA novel set in a not-too-distant future on the Gulf Coast of the United States. Ecological disaster, increasing social inequality, and resource scarcity have led to a world in which most people have no choice but to work in extremely hazardous environments while the hyper-rich jet-set around the globe.

The novel follows a boy named Nailer who works as a scavenger on the marooned oil tankers of the previous era (a.k.a. the “Accelerated Age”). It’s a dark and dystopian novel, but at its heart is the story of how one person can set in motion meaningful, systemic change. 

By Paolo Bacigalupi,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Ship Breaker as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 12, 13, 14, and 15.

What is this book about?

Nailer's time is running out. He's getting too big for his work - stripping copper wire from old oil tankers - and once he's off the crew he's on his own, stuck in a shack on the beach with no food, no money and no way of earning his keep.

He has one last chance. The thing all crew members dream about, a lucky strike, has hit in the shape of a clipper ship beached during the last hurricane. If he can hold off the rest of the scavengers long enough to get the oil out, he might just have…