This Bookseller Gives Kids Books in Exchange for Empty Cans and Bottles

CC BY 1.0. nicoletta zanella/Shutterstock

The bookshop/cafe in southern Italy hopes to give kids a boost while also helping the environment.

In a small town in Southern Italy near Salerno, a bookshop has installed a novel payment system for books. For the "price" of one empty plastic bottle and one aluminum can, anyone under the age of 14 years old gets a book in return.

The books-for-litter brainstorm comes from Michele Gentile, founder of the Ex Libris cafe bookshop in Polla, Italy, who recently told CNN that he hopes to encourage kids to read while also doing something beneficial for the planet.

"My goal is to spread the passion and love for books among those people in Italy who do not usually read while at the time helping the environment," he said. "I hope the initiative becomes so viral that it affects the whole country."

"It will be revolutionary, not only for the planet but also for the education of children and their job prospects," he added.

The books are being donated in a twist on the region's tradition of "caffe sospeso." Also know as “suspended coffee," the practice involves someone paying in advance for an extra cup of coffee, which can then be consumed by a coffee-drinker-in-need later in the day. Gentile calls his inspiration "libro sospeso," or "suspended book," a way for book shoppers to buy an extra book and pay it forward for the project.

The program is open to both individual kids as well as schools, and the idea is catching on.

"Yesterday alone, I donated 60 suspended books," Gentile said. "Imagine if this becomes a small game: Every child in the world swaps a plastic bottle and a can for books. I know it's just a dream, but why not do it?"

As lovely as it all is, I can't help but find it a bit depressing that we have to get our kids to pick up the grown-ups' litter. At least when drink manufacturers become more accountable for their waste in the first place, booksellers won't have to come up with exchange schemes to help clean up the planet. But in the meantime, it's heartening to know that in a small town in Italy, there are more kids with books and less litter where it doesn't belong.

Via the World Economic Forum