The Shredded Paper Predicament

After years of procrastination I decided to tackle all of the boxes of old bills and papers that I had dutifully carted from house to house in every move for the last 10 years- so out came the shredder. I shredded and shredded until 10 boxes became 2 boxes that needed to be kept. While this substantial reduction in personal papers has made my closets breathe easier it has left me with the question of what to do with all of the shredded materials. Tossing it in the landfill clearly isn't a viable option, and even tossing it into your recycle can isn't a guarantee that it won't be thrown out because of an unsuitable mixture of materials that could deem it unusable. How then can these shredded documents be re-purposed?

1) Kindling for a fire- I have seen that others have used shredded paper in this way, but I can't help but wonder whether the burning ink and treated paper is healthy to breathe. I seriously doubt that all of our bills are made from recycled paper and vegetable or soy-based inks.

2) Mulching- this seems like an inventive way to put your old shredded bills to work, but I should imagine that you would really have to wet it well so that a bit of wind is all it would take to confetti decorate your neighbor's yards!

3) Handmade Paper- Shredded paper could be turned into the pulp base for handmade paper projects.

4) Pet Cage Lining- As long as the inks are safe for the pets.

5) Packing Materials- Though these messy little pieces may cause the recipient to curse, rather than thank you since they will undoubtedly have to vacuum up after opening the parcel. I suppose placing the shredded paper in a recyclable bag would do the trick.

6) Composting- Many people add shredded paper to their composting piles, but again my concern is whether it is ultimately safe to allow the chemical components in the ink and paper to degrade into your compost which will presumably become incorporated into the fruits, vegetables, and herbs that will be grown and consumed. It seems to defeat the purpose of growing organically.

With identity theft rampant it is necessary to shred sensitive private data, but the key is to shred only what really needs to be shredded and then simply recycle the rest of the paper. A few simple steps should help you reduce the volume of paper that needs to be shredded.

Carefully sort all documents and remove only the sensitive information, when it is feasible. If you are able to remove all identifying information (names, addresses, social security numbers, account numbers etc.)- then you can simply shred the sensitive information and recycle the remaining papers without wasting the time and electricity needed to shred all of it.


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