Shredding is a common way of disposing of important documents employed by both households and businesses. This is done to reduce the risk of identity theft and, in the case of businesses, is done in compliance with data protection laws.
What many people do not realise, however, is that shredding paper is far from environmentally friendly. Most believe that all paper is recycled in the same way. This is not true; while shredded paper can be recycled, it cannot be if it has been mixed with other recyclables.
If you need to dispose of sensitive documents, it may be worth considering a confidential waste disposal service. This article will explain why shredding paper is such a bad idea and offer some more eco-friendly alternatives.
Why Do People Shred Paper?
People shred their personal documents to reduce the risk of identity theft. All sorts of information can be gleaned from these documents: for example, your home or workplace address. Understandably, most people do not want to risk this information being easily accessible.
Companies also shred important documents when they are no longer needed. These might have customer details or sensitive business information. Shredding protects not only your customers but your business and employees as well.
Businesses also shred documents in accordance with government legislation and laws involving data protection.
Why Should You Reconsider Paper Shredding?
Despite the benefits of shredding, it is not a good idea. This is because shredded paper cannot be easily recycled, as the fibres in shredded paper are shortened, making them less useful for recycling.
Furthermore, when the shredded paper is mixed with other recyclables, it can no longer be recycled. This is because shredded paper usually becomes mixed up with small pieces of glass during the mechanical recycling process. Sometimes it may fall through the filter screen. When this happens, recycling centres are not able to retrieve the paper.
What Alternatives Are There to Shredding?
If you have important documents and want to keep your sensitive information safe from prying eyes, there are more eco-friendly options to shredding. For instance, if the document only has a few lines of personal information, you could simply cover it using a permanent marker or white-out.
Another option would be to take the papers to your local recycling centre. They would not be recycled immediately, but they would be mixed in with loads of paper, making it practically impossible for them to be targeted. Anyone who wanted to steal your data would have to break into the centre to do so.
You can also cut down on the number of physical bills and statements you get and ask to receive them online instead. That way, you don’t have to worry about getting rid of any papers in the first place.
Another alternative is to hire a shredding service. Such waste disposal services promise confidentiality; they will come to collect your documents themselves and dispose of them in secure facilities. After confirming that your papers have been destroyed, the shredding service will see that the paper is recycled into new, usable material.
Whichever option you choose is up to you; however, going with a shredding service would be the most convenient and would eliminate a lot of the work.
Can I Reuse Shredded Paper?
If none of these options is what you are looking for, or if you absolutely have to shred your documents, you could simply find ways to reuse your paper so that it doesn’t go to waste in a landfill somewhere. Here are a few ideas for ways you could use your shredded paper:
- Animal bedding: You can recycle paper for animals to use as bedding. This is particularly popular for small pets like mice, hamsters, and gerbils. Animals love shredded paper, as they can easily make cosy nests from the fibrous strands.
- Kindling: While it is not advisable to burn entire stacks of paper—especially without permission, as disposing of documents this way could get you into legal trouble—you can use shredded paper as kindling for your fireplace.
- Packing material: Shredded paper can also be used as packing material when sending fragile items through the post. You can use it to pad envelopes and cushion cardboard boxes.
- Crafts: On the more creative side of things, you can also use shredded paper in arts and crafts. Kids can make papier-mâché from the strands, or you could use it to fill Easter baskets.
Even though you may want to protect your personal details or those of customers and employees, it is not recommended that you do so through shredding documents. This is because shredding is not environmentally friendly, as it is difficult to recycle shredded paper.
This article has covered several alternatives to shredding:
- Covering sensitive information with markers or white-out.
- Recycling your papers.
- Cutting down on physical bills and statements.
- Hiring a waste disposal service to deal with the matter for you.
We have also highlighted some ways to reuse paper shreddings so that if you have to shred, you can find better uses for them than just throwing them away.