In this day and age, you’d like to think that traditional mail is a thing of the past, but if you’re like me, you still get a lot of mail that contains personal information. While most of it is junk mail with only your name and address on it, some of it, like bills, may contain a bit more private details.
In a perfect world, you’d move as many of the legitimate accounts to a digital-only version, but that’s not always possible. With that being said, you need to do something with these documents to keep your information safe. One of the best steps in this regard is to shred your documents.
Whether shredding your bills or other private documents you have stored at home, eventually, you need to do something with the shredded paper. Before you put your paper right in the trash, there are a couple of points to consider, as well as some alternative disposal methods to keep in mind.
In this article, I’ll cover the best ways to dispose of shredded paper, as well as some alternative options for reuse.
What to Consider When Disposing of Shredded Paper
While most people probably throw their shredded paper right in the trash bin, is this really a good idea? While it can make sense in some situations, there are a couple of things you should consider before making that decision.
First, how confidential in the information that’s printed on your shredded documents? While shredding does provide a certain level of security, a patient identity thief, or even some sophisticated software, can potentially piece together some of your details.
That brings me to my next point, which is the type of shredder that was used to shred your documents. As you might expect, not all shredders are created equally. The two most common types of shredders used at home are strip cut and cross cut.
Strip cut shredders cut long strips of paper (makes sense, right?), while cross cut takes it a step further and cuts the strips into smaller pieces. There are advantages and disadvantages to the various types of shredders, but the main point to remember is that the smaller the pieces, the less likely your documents can be reassembled.
When disposing of shredded paper, it’s important to keep these points in mind. If you’re just shredding documents with basic information, like your name and address, you might not be too concerned with throwing everything away in one trash can.
How to Dispose of Shredded Paper
Now that you know what to consider, what’s the best way to dispose of shredded paper? Well, the best way will be different for everyone, depending on your specific circumstances, but there are a few good options to choose from.
1 – Pick Up / Drop Off Service
While a small fee will come with it, one of the most secure ways to dispose of shredded paper is through a pick up or drop off service. Just like there are different types of shredders, there are different levels of security when it comes to service providers.
Most shredding services do the shredding for you, and as expected, they use shredders that provide a much higher level of security than a typical home shredder. On top of that, they also mix your documents with the documents of many others, making it much more difficult to piece anything together.
2 – Composting
An eco-friendly option for disposing of shredded paper is to compost it. Paper provides a carbon-rich source for your compost pile to help balance your carbon-to-nitrogen ratio.
When composting shredded paper, there are a couple of things to consider. First, make sure you understand that you’re putting your shredded paper out in the open where someone could potentially find it.
Second, while most paper is fine to compost, you’ll want to avoid adding shredded paper if it’s glossy or heavily inked.
3 – Multiple Trash Bins
Another way to dispose of shredded paper is to put the paper pieces into multiple trash cans. By using multiple trash cans, you’re making it more difficult to piece together the documents being shredded.
Just keep in mind that unless you’re separating out the pieces from each document that you shred, there’s a high probability that some of your shredded pieces in one trash bin will contain a full piece of personal information (like an account number).
Using multiple bins helps, but it does not eliminate risk by any means.
Can Shredded Paper Be Recycled?
While shredded paper can technically be recycled, it’s not commonly accepted in curbside recycling bins. When it is accepted, it’s typically required to be put in a separate container, often a paper or plastic bag. This is to make things easier during the separation process that’s done at the recycling facility.
While curbside recycling of shredded paper might not be an option in your area, your local recycling center might accept your shredded documents when dropped off. Not all recycling centers are the same, so you’ll have to call around to find out whether or not this is an option for you.
Uses for Shredded Paper
While you do have some good options for disposing of shredded paper, as mentioned above, you can also repurpose your paper pieces before getting rid of them. Let’s take a look at just a few of these methods next.
1 – Packaging
One of the best uses for shredded paper is to use it as packaging. Simply fill a box with paper pieces, put your item in there, and you’re ready to ship.
2 – Stuffing
Similar to the idea above, you can use paper pieces for stuffing. This might not work great for stuffed animals, but can definitely work for costumes, scare crows, etc.
3 – Pet Bedding
A great way to use your shredded paper is to create pet bedding. If you have a small animal at home, such as a hamster, the paper pieces can provide a great place for them to rest.
4 – Mulch
I mentioned composting above, but that’s not the only place you can use shredded paper in your garden. You can also use it as mulch to help stunt the growth of weeds around your plants.
5 – Fire Starter
Not much catches fire more easily than paper, so it should be no surprise that you can use your shredded paper as a fire starter. It makes for a quick and easy way to get rid of a lot of paper at once.
These are just a few basic ideas to get you started. If you do a quick search online, you’ll find dozens of additional uses for shredded paper.
If you shred you’re documents at home, you’re already a big step ahead of most people. My wife and I have both been a part of security breaches, so trust me when I say that any step you take to minimize your risk is well worth it.
With that being said, if you’re already going to the trouble of shredding, why not take the extra step to make sure you dispose of your documents in the safest way?
Depending on your situation, one disposal method may work better than another for you, but the important thing is that you do whatever you can to keep your information out of the wrong hands.