Shred less

Yesterday’s Excellent post was almost like a wrap-up. So now for a regular post, even though it’s a Friday.

shredderWe’re all told to shred everything with personal information on it.


But shredding paper has some problems. In our community, you can still recycle it, but you are asked to put it in a paper bag, stapled shut, before tossing it into your recycling bin. Why?

The short answer is that shredding breaks up the paper fiber, thereby making it lower in quality when it comes to its potential recycling uses. For the long answer, read #2 on this page. (The how- and where-to’s on that page are specific to the recycler, but the information likely applies everywhere.)

Shredding is still OK … and it’s better than throwing out, burning or disposing in some other way (eating?) of paper with private information on it. But do the environment one small favor and consider shredding less — rip off the segment that has your name on it, shred the ripped-off part, and recycle the rest of the page normally.

(And for even greater savings, view your bills online and avoid the entire “paper” part of the privacy cycle — just be sure you have all your computer settings at maximum privacy protection.)


8 thoughts on “Shred less

  1. frankschulteladbeck says:

    I am a big fan of online banking, since it reduces the paper coming into the home, but I still wish that I would not receive so many credit card applications. I mean, it is nice that Capitol One really loves me so much, but I have not even dated them.

    I have seen some scams where these applications were used, so you have to shred them to. I have been taking the shredded papers to use as garden mulch. I mix it in with the compost.

  2. Jenna says:

    I gotta confess, I’m with frank above me. Pretty much everything I need to shred goes either into the compost bin (as long as I don’t toss the glossy stuff in, my compost seems to happily munch it away) or into our woodburner. Which, in its own way still means the composter as all of our ashes from the winter go into the garden.

    Better all round if the annoying ads wouls just stop coming, but after putting my name on the do not call list and doing the same to multiple mailing lists, I don’t know what else I can do to stem the tide.

    I think it all depends on the recycling place as well. At our local one, they view ANY metal being in the paper. Twist ties to hold stacks of paper get some rather irate comments, anything obscuring the view of what exactly is going through the shredder gets tossed out into the normal garbage.

    You were right to check with your communities recycling center, they vary so much from town to town its a little nuts. I know a lot of folks who just assume when they move its all the same and end up shocked to realize they are doing it all wrong. Good catch.

  3. Cliff says:

    I had no idea that paper shredders broke up the fibers, making it harder to recycle. I always thought shredding paper assisted with the recycled paper. Shows you how much I know. Does shredded paper really work well as compost?

  4. cheaplikeme says:

    I know you can definitely compost newspaper (shredded or not) – haven’t tried it with white paper, but our readers’ survey in the comments above says yes!

    The linked page says shredding reduces paper in the recycling stream to the quality of paperboard.

    Still, if you aren’t in need of dry stuff for your compost, recycling gives the tree-bits a second life. Just rip off the part of your document with the name, account number or whatever and shred that part – then compost, eat or bag-n-recycle to your heart’s content, and recycle the rest of the page.

  5. L'an says:

    We bag up the shredded bits and save it for packing around delicate objects that need to be shipped elsewhere. The down side of this is that its heavier (and thus, can be more expensive) than packing peanuts, but the plus side is no packing peanuts (and with luck, perhaps the recycling rules in the recipient’s community are different than ours!)

  6. Tony says:

    Hey now, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with eating paper! I’ve been doing it for years and so far, have not experienced a single side effect.

    People think I’m crazy for doing it, but for some reason, I just can’t help myself. You lay a straw wrapper near me in a restaurant… it’s gone. Napkins, they’ll usually get the corner chewed off.

    It’s disgusting, I know, especially for a 27 year old male, but people do stranger things.

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