To Shred or Not to Shred

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Dear Pablo: I work for a large company. For our secure document disposal, we have a large paper shredder. On a regular basis, these shredded files are then emptied and recycled. Unfortunately, this is the only way we currently have for recycling documents, so many people put all of their paper into the shredder for recycling. I am curious, though, whether the savings we get from recycling is worth the energy it costs to shred the paper?

Since the recycled paper will be shredded at the pulp mill anyway I don't think that the energy from shredding will add much to the energy used in recycling. And, even if the energy use is not negligible, recycling paper still has a net benefit over making paper from virgin tree pulp. The real issue is around the recyclability of shredded paper.Can You Even Recycle Shredded Paper?

Neat bundles of newspapers or paper bags filled with sheets of paper are easy for recycling companies to sort and recycle. But what happens when a pile of shredded paper appears at the recycling plant? Some recycling programs do not accept shredded paper because of the difficulty of sorting it, but those that do simply request that it be contained so that it doesn't get contaminated with other recyclables.

Document Shredding Services

Some companies may engage document destruction services for disposing of potentially confidential materials. Many of these companies, like Cintas, recycle 100% of the shredded documents. Others, like San Diego's Green Shredding, have taken this business one step greener by doing this work with electric vehicles.

Other Uses For Shredded Paper

If you community recycling does not accept shredded paper you can still reuse the shredded paper, and possibly offset the manufacturing of other materials. Here are some ideas for reusing shredded paper:

  • Replace bubble wrap and styrofoam peanuts with shredded paper for packing and storage of delicate items.
  • Make your own paper.
  • Use it for animal bedding.
  • Make furniture out of it.
  • Make a boat out of it.
  • Build a Worm Bin and Line it with Shredded Paper