August 20, 2008

Shredding and Recycling

I know I've been shredding more paper lately and always assumed that if I put it into the recycle bin, that this was a good thing. That was before I got an email that explained the disadvantages of recycling shredded paper.

Tips to Reduce Paper Shredding
In the age of identity theft, shredding confidential documents has become an important safeguard of privacy. But shredding paper isn't great for the environment and recycling for three reasons:

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

Eco-Cycle recommends minimizing the amount of paper you shred, at home and at work, by following these simple tips:

  • Shred only the portions of the document containing sensitive information. For example, your personal information may be on the bottom third of a document while the remaining two-thirds is just general information. The personal information can be torn off and shredded while the rest can be recycled.

  • Establish a company policy at your business on what needs to be shredded and what does not so everyone is on the same page.

  • Put an end to junk mail such as credit card offers and remove old employees from mailing lists. Learn more.

  • Go paperless. Scanning and emailing documents can reduce paper usage, office costs, and the need to shred.

  • If you must shred paper, set your shredder to the thickest width so your confidential information is illegible, but there is more intact fiber. Shredded paper should be taken to a drop-off center, and recycled with paperboard (cereal boxes, shoe boxes, etc.). Paperboard is a much lower-grade category of paper fiber, which is more appropriate for shred, and we don't run it over the screens at the recycling facility; it just gets bailed directly from the collection bin. Because of its low value, we pay to have it recycled. Shredded paper is NOT acceptable through curbside recycling.

Posted by Mary at August 20, 2008 01:54 PM | Environment | Technorati links |

i guess i'm lucky. all my paper gets recycled. i burn, and compost the ash, of what i can't use in the garden directly. that material is placed over grass lots which i'm reverting into growing spaces. via the "lasagna" method. if i have leftovers, that's converted into kindling (winter) or stuffing for craft projects.

no paper is wasted in my household.

Posted by: chicago dyke at August 24, 2008 01:38 AM

How do you make kindling out of the leftovers?

Posted by: Meg at August 25, 2008 04:52 AM

Sorry, As much as I want to recycle I'm not going to risk theft of my personal info any more than I have to. I that means I don't recycle every scrap of paper then so be it.

Posted by: scott at August 27, 2008 06:52 AM