Garbage Collectors Rescue Discarded Books From the Trash, Create Library for the Public

BY Louise Chambers TIMEMarch 2, 2021 PRINT

Turkish garbage collectors have decided to salvage what was deemed trash by their clientele as treasure for the public, instead.

Repurposing an old brick factory, bookshelves were set up inside and stacked full with discarded books, which had been destined for the incinerator before being collected from the trash.

The library operates in the Çankaya district of Turkey’s capital, Ankara. The library was originally intended as a resource for workers and their families to enjoy, reports Matador Network, but after word of the project spread, members of the public began donating books to the literary venture.

The library opened to the public in September 2017, and today, it’s thriving.

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The extensive library collected by municipal employees and donated by the public, as pictured on Jan. 9, 2018 (ADEM ALTAN/AFP via Getty Images)
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Sanitation workers enter the library on Jan. 9, 2018 (ADEM ALTAN/AFP via Getty Images)

“We started to discuss the idea of creating a library from these books,” Çankaya Mayor Alper Tasdelen told CNN, “and when everyone supported it, this project happened.”

Books found in the trash are brought back to the sanitation department headquarters where they are brushed up and sorted. The vacant brick factory on the premises was a perfect site for the library, its long corridors ideally shaped for bookshelves.

As the library’s collection grew, so did the need for organization. A library manager was hired and the books were sorted into 17 specific categories, including graphic novels and children’s books. The collection even includes books in English and French.

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The book-lined corridors of the repurposed brick factory in the Cankaya district of Ankara on Jan. 9, 2018 (ADEM ALTAN/AFP via Getty Images)

The quiet nook, upgraded with seating and chess boards, fast became a favorite rest spot for refuse workers on their breaks, many of whom are glad for the chance to self-educate in their spare moments.

“As a child, I would have loved to have books,” said worker Güven Akin, speaking to DW News, “but we lived in a poor district, and often there weren’t any school books on sale. Not that we could have afforded them.”

Eventually, the library’s success spawned an outreach project in 2019, and Çankaya district refuse workers converted a garbage collection truck into a mini mobile library to service local schools and swap books with public libraries.

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Refuse workers take a reading break on Jan. 9, 2018 (ADEM ALTAN/AFP via Getty Images)

“On one hand, there were those who were leaving these books on the streets. On the other hand, others were looking for these books,” Mayor Tasdelen reflected.

Adds Akin, “Refuse workers aren’t only people who take away the trash.”

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Louise Chambers is a writer, born and raised in London, England. She covers inspiring news and human interest stories.
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