How to Reduce, Reuse and Recycle Shredded Paper

Can Shredded Paper be Recycled?

Paper is one of the most recyclable materials out there. Technically, shredded paper can be recycled but the problem is that it can put a burden on your local facility. Shredded paper clings to other items, creates a mess and may jam up equipment. For this reason, many municipalities do not accept it.

Besides, the fibers of shredded paper may be too short to be processed into new paper. When you shred paper, you cut its fibers and reduce how recyclable it is. If you put shredded paper in your recycle bin, it is more than likely to end up in a landfill.

Why is Shredded Paper a Problem?

It is possible to recycle shredded paper when it is collected separately from other recyclables. Shredded paper has to be contained in a bag or it mixes with the other recyclables in the bin.

Even the most dedicated recycling company is not going to pay people to painstakingly separate it by hand. For this reason, shredded paper is harder to market and recycling companies are more reluctant to accept it.

When paper is baled and sent to the mill, machines called pulpers break down the paper into fibers by introducing chemicals and water. Ink and adhesive is removed, the fibers are rolled, dried and sent off to make into new paper. The problem is that mills depend on long paper fibers as they stick to the huge screens.

When you shred paper, the fibers are shorter. Pieces tend to go through the screens and make a mess. Mixed paper fibers that are smaller are usually recycled into lower quality paper products, such as paper towels and egg cartons.

Reduce The Amount of Shredded Paper

Unfortunately, many of us shred paper to protect confidentiality. What can we do if we need to shred paper? Firstly, we need to try and only shred what we really need to. Paper Recycles describes items that should be shredded and others that should not.

In many cases, the information you want to delete, such as a number or name, only appears on one line and you can use a permanent marker to delete this instead of shredding the document.

Today most financial services, banks and investment firms send online statements rather than paper ones. This reduces the amount of sensitive material you need to shred. When you print out documents, remember to print only when necessary and print double sided whenever possible.

If you want to stop receiving unwanted credit card offers that come in the mail, you can go to the Federal Trade Commission website and find out how to remove your name for junk mail lists.

Bag Your Shredded Paper for Curbside Recycling

Some local governments accept shredded paper at the curb if it is bagged. As shredded paper is one of the main material acceptance variables in curbside recycling, you need to check instructions given by your local curbside program before putting shredded paper into your recycle bin. In most cases, you will need to bag it first.

Some local governments allow packing shredded paper in economically friendly ways. Portland allows homeowners to put shredded paper in a paper bag. In Kansas City, San Francisco and Minneapolis, it can go in a bag or a recyclable paper envelope. They do request that containers are stapled shut so the contents cannot escape and litter the streets.

Use Designated Drop Off Areas

Some cities only accept shredded paper at designated drop off areas. You can find drop off spots for shredded paper using this Recycling Locator.

Attend Shredding Events

You can also attend citywide shredding events such as those held in Chicago where shredded paper is not accepted in the recycling program. Their shredders, unlike home or office shredders, are able to cut larger pieces that are then bundled together and sold.

Use Professional Shredding Services

If you shred large amounts of paper on a regular basis, you can use a shredding company that will pick up your paper and shred it on a regular basis for a fee.

Reuse Your Shredded Paper

In Your Compost Heap

In the summer when leaves are harder to come by, you can use your shredded paper in your compost bin. First, make sure it is free of staples and other contaminants. Most inks are soy based these days so they should not create any problem but avoid adding colored paper and glossy paper to your bin to be safe.

A good compost heap needs green and brown waste. Carbon rich brown waste comes from leaves and paper counts in the brown waste column. It can prevent your compost bin from becoming moldy or slimy. No recycling – just paper breaking down and eventually fertilizing your garden.

Use as Mulch

Another way to use it in your garden is as mulch. The microorganisms in the soil “eat” the paper in the same way as they do in a compost heap.

Use as Eco Friendly Packing Material

Other ways to use your shredded paper include using it as an economically friendly packing material for expensive electronics and delicate china. Shredded paper is better than Styrofoam popcorn for packing them. You can pack it tightly in areas where you are afraid something will shift or rub.

Use for Animal Bedding

You can also use shredded paper as animal bedding for small animals like gerbils or donate it to an animal rescue or a vet.

Extend Your Kitty Litter

Pad the litter box with your shredded paper before putting in the crystals. You will need fewer crystals this way but they still do their work.

Make Your own Paper

Using shredded paper as a raw material for making your own paper is another option. Make your own tags and scrapbooks. Using a paper making kit makes the process simple.

A Final Word

Always check local recycling policies regarding shredded paper. In some cases, it can be collected curbside by placing it in a bag but it is not acceptable to simply throw it into your recycle bin with other materials. It is always best to try and reduce shredded paper to a minimum and use it in other ways than recycling it.

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