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Kuopio City Library ditches protective plastic covers for books: "This is climate action"

The eco-friendly experiment will also save time and money, the library management claimed.

Kirjaston kirjoja ilman muovipäällystystä.
Image: Sakari Partanen / Yle

From barcodes to book covers — plastic is inescapable in a library. The Kuopio City Library, however, plans to put an end to that. The management has decided to procure new books without protective plastic covers. The experiment is being undertaken with a small set of books and the results are already looking promising, they said.

A case in point is that readers returned one of many cover-free books by author Kalle Päätalo without any major damage, library officials elaborated.

Kuopion kaupunginkirjaston asiakas- ja kokoelmapäällikkö Minna Koistinen.
Minna Koistinen from the Kuopio library Image: Sakari Partanen / Yle

"The wear and tear is so negligible that it doesn’t deter the experiment. This simple act can encourage environmental protection," Minna Koistinen, the library’s customer and collection manager added.

First library in Finland with plastic-free books

Until now, only scientific libraries housed books without protective plastic covers. "This is a groundbreaking thing," gushed Rauha Maarno, Managing Director of the Finnish Library Society, who claimed that no public library in Finland has done this before Kuopio.

And, it’s not just good for the environment — the new practice could save money and time too, Koistinen said. Books that no longer need to be covered will make their way to the libraries faster than before. The money saved can be used to acquire new books.

Library officials believe that this experiment could be of interest to other libraries in Finland too as plastic covers can prove quite expensive. Libraries in Finland acquired a total of about 1.6 million works last year.

Recycling made easy

The recycling of scrapped books is also much easier, thanks to this initiative, the library claimed. The non-recyclable covers previously had to be torn off old books first, but cover-less books can now be placed directly in the paper recycling unit.

Kirjaston kirjasta poistetaan kannet ennen kierrätystä.
Image: Sakari Partanen / Yle

Finland uses a significant number of non-recyclable plastic covers. Last year, of the 2.5 million non-recyclable plastic covers removed nationwide, around 70,000 were from Kuopio alone.

The city library of Kuopio is, however, ready to return to plastic if the life cycle of the books without protective covers proves shorter than expected.

Library worker Tuula Tiihonen, said she understands the need for the plastic-free project but is sceptical. "When books are used a lot, they will wear out. I suspect they won't last. Let’s see," Tiihonen said with a smile.

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