Reduce, Reuse & Recycle
Shredded Paper - Fit for Recycling?
I have a very systematic way of going through my snail mail and other paper goods.
One major part of this habit is to shred personal information - including account numbers, address and pretty much anything that has my name on it. For the longest time I was tossing my shredding into the garbage, then I started to put all of the shreds into my recycling “They’re paper, right?”
Turns out I might have been wrong! (Unheard of, I know.)
EcoCycle.com cites three reasons why it might not be a good idea to recycle shredded paper
- When you shred paper, what you’re actually doing is cutting the lengths of the individual paper fibers, thus cutting the future recycling potential of that fiber. The length of a paper fiber determines its value since a longer fiber can be used to make a higher-grade paper and can be recycled more times.
- At the recycling facility, mixed paper from households and businesses goes over an automated screen that makes the paper product cleaner by shaking out non-fiber contaminants like bits of glass, etc. The only problem is that the shredded paper gets grabbed by the fingers on the screens and gets pulled into the reject bin, and off to the landfill.
- The paper mills that buy recycled paper must do a quality sort on the material before they put it into their multi-million dollar machines, and it’s just plain impossible to do a good quality sort of shredded paper. Many contaminants can hide in the shred, such as plastic strips from a document cover that were accidentally shredded along with the paper. For this reason, paper markets don’t like to buy shredded paper and don’t like to see it in with the higher-grade junk mail and office paper.
The website Recyclenow.com program suggests you contact your local recycling or waste management authorities. If they do allow you to recycle your shredded paper Recycle Now provides a couple good guidelines for recycling shredded paper.
Prepare your Shredded Paper for Recycling
- Make sure it is free of plastic.
- Don’t put it loose into open recycling boxes as it will blow away!
Can’t Recycle your Shreddings?
Then why not make your own paper?
What better way to ensure your personal information is never obtained? By making it disappear and using your homemade recycled paper as thank you notes or scribble pages at school or work.
Here’s a great Flickr set dedicated to homemade paper for you visual learners!
Remember - the sun is a natural whitener so if you let your paper dry in the sun or lay in the sun you will get whiter paper without using harsh chemicals like bleach.