7 ways to recycle shredded paper

Filed in Recycle by on February 17, 2010 39 Comments
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Find out how to recycle shredded paper

Find out how to recycle shredded paper

Some councils take shredded paper with the kerbside recycling or at your local bring bank. Other councils will not accept shredded paper for recycling at all. You’ll need to phone your local district council and ask their policy.

The main reasons for not accepting shredded paper is that some paper mills cannot deal with it. It’s said that shredded paper makes weaker fibres and produces an inferior quality product. In some paper mills, the small fragments cause problems with machinery, so it will depend on where your individual council sends their paper to, as to whether shredded paper can be included in your local recycling.

If your local council will accept shredded paper for recycling, you’re lucky! But what if they won’t?

Here are 7 ways to reuse shredded paper – Please add your suggestions in the comments below!

  • Composting is a great way to get rid of shredded paper; especially for confidential information such as bank statements. It’s the perfect way to avoid identity theft!
  • If you don’t have a compost bin, you can put a small amount of shredded paper into a wormery.
  • Shredded paper makes a great fire starter, unlike sheets of flat paper – offer it to a friend with a woodburner to make paper logs from.
  • Some shredded paper can be used for pet bedding, underneath the straw. Beware of toxic inks though.
  • Talking of pets, you can use shredded paper in a cat litter box.
  • Use shredded paper as packing material when sending gifts – it’s far more eco friendly than polystyrene (styrofoam) peanuts.
  • If you fancy a messy, but fun project, try using it to make your own paper!

What about you? How do you recycle shredded paper?

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About the Author ()

I am a long time supporter of the Green and Sustainable lifestyle. After being caught in the Boscastle floods in 2004, our family begun a journey to respect and promote the importance of Earth's fragile ecosystem, that focussed on reducing waste. Inspired by the beauty and resourcefulness of this wonderful planet, I have published numerous magazine articles on green issues and the author of four books.

Comments (39)

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  1. Sarah says:

    We use shredded paper for either pet bedding or for packaging business parcels.

  2. Paul Watts says:

    Does anyone have any ideas to either stop or recycle plastic charity bags. They seem to appear through our letterbox 2 or 3 times each week from a plethora of different sources. You’re supposed to fill them with unwanted clothes etc which we do occasionally but we get far too many. Does everyone have the same problem and if so what do you do with them?

    Paul e Watts

  3. Dawn says:

    We compost it or use it with other materials as a mulch in the garden. Started using it now to make our own paper too, although messy indoors so waiting for warmer weather to do this more outside.

    If you mix equal parts shredded paper with equal parts grass clippings, mix well and leave in a tub or bag, covered with a little moisture, you end up with lovely fine compost suitable for raising seeds in. Great way to use up both without overloading the compost heap with them.

  4. Alyson says:

    @Paul Watts: I had this problem with charity bags. I wouldn’t have minded but they were never picked up. I even saw the van come up the road and drive away without picking my neighbours bags,well cheesed off she was! I made a notice saying “NO charity bags please!” The NO is in red. I laminated it and stuck it on my door, just above the letter box. Its been there for about 2 years now and it seems to have worked. I know, because I see bags of stuff waiting to be collected in my road. I’ve had 2 bags posted during this time and I filled the bags and took them to the clothes bank.And once I chased a man who had just posted one through the letter box and asked him to take it back and quickly explained why. he actually agreed there was a problem with collection. Anyway,at least I don’t have 2 or 3 bags, a week, posted through the door.

  5. Ben says:

    I’m don’t use the charity bags as these bags have lots of issues, with some of them being commercial companies who use various charity names (normally with their consent), but the items don’t end up in charity shops as we might expect them to. It’s best to donate stuff in the shop itself. If I do get a charity bag I use it as a bin bag.

  6. Nick Palmer says:

    It’s best not to put those multipart forms – like invoices etc that make copies as you write on them (often pale pink yellow or green) – in the shredding. I think they make recycling office paper less valuable too.

  7. line all garden paths with at least 3 inches of shredded paper–>> keeps weeds and soil compaction down.

    stuff cat cushions or toddler toys full of it, as they are soft and don’t last that long anyway.

    line the laying hens nests with shredded newspaper, they love the rustle and bustle of it and make a perfect circle out of it. keep a bucket full of it, for “bed” changes>> keeps eggs clean.

  8. Angie says:

    Like the idea of making paper logs, do now have new wood burner stove so will look for ‘thing’ to make paper logs…..oh yes and will need shredder too !!!!!!! Thanks for that…..

  9. Josie Brock says:

    @Paul Watts:

    We have the same problem with charity bags. I have filled them three or four times but no one comes to collect them! I now use them in my household bin, turned inside our, instead of black plastic sacks. It may not be good practice but the stuff I would have sent goes to a local charity shop anyway!

  10. Poppy says:

    @Josie Brock: @Paul Watts:

    This topic seems to have turned a bit!

    First thing – our shredded paper mostly goes in the compost bin, but our council do take shredded paper at their main bring site. I was told several years ago, that they couldn’t collect it because it potentially caused too much litter on the streets. Having tried to get shredded paper from the shredder to the compost bin without losing any on the way, I can understand that totally! It’s bit like the pine needles from a real christmas tree, you keep finding bits months later :D

    Charity bags! Oh yes! Been there, done that! I even got in touch with one of them to complain after my neighbours decided that they’d all put their bags with mine and I ended up with a huge pile of bags that I had to rescue and find somewhere to stash when it rained all over them, and still they didn’t collect!!

    Now we reuse them to take items directly to the charity shops (any bag, any shop!!), or to the skips at the bring sites.

    That said, I also know a lady who delivers and collects bags for one of the local charities, and she really works very hard for amount of returns she gets, so they’re not all bad :)

  11. Mrs Green says:

    @Sarah: Hi Sarah; using as packaging for parcels is brilliant. I think LMG is getting a bunny for her birthday, so we’ll be using some as bedding soon too!

    @Paul Watts: Hi paul – that’s a LOT of charity bags! We get about 1 every 4 months or so. I would offer them to a friend who uses black bags; they’ll be delighted to be able to save the money, surely?

    @Dawn: Thanks for the idea of the starting compost. Have fun with paper making!

    @nadine Sellers: Hi Nadine; I’d be interested to see the idea of lining paths working – don’t you just end up with a horrible mess that gets stuck on your shoes and trails into the house??!!

    @Angie: Hi Angie, I just got a log maker from Eco Kitchens Online – will be having an experiment with it and writing a review on the site soon!

    @Poppy: I can’t begin to imagine the amount of litter it would create – we get it all over the dining room floor when we shred paper too!

  12. Jane says:

    Reduce the amount you shred as it is worth less shredded. It is a real pain as much of it is those unsolicited offers of loans with pre-filled personal data. If you look in the small print you can stop a lot of that though including credit card cheques. Bit by bit it reduces.

    Make sure you tick the right box when you order anything online – sometimes it is tick when you want info and sometimes it is tick when you don’t!

    What you are left with it easier to deal with.

  13. Jane says:

    We’re increasingly seeing mashed recycled paper packaging instead of polystyrene.

  14. Mrs Green says:

    @Jane: Hi jane, reducing is by the far the best way, yes. And reusing in the form of packaging is a good idea too :)

  15. Jane says:

    Use it to line the food waste bin is the suggestion of one local Council.

  16. Belatedly, answering mrs Green. In order to avoid messy, flying paper shreds all over the garden area and beyond–you must keep paper moist for several days, until trampled on the narrow paths between rows or cubes if you batch garden. the result will be a uniform flat grey area, walkable, untackable and impervious to weeds. spread straw if you fear messes, then, you may have farmer’s hoof n’ track all over your home.

  17. Mrs Green says:

    @Jane: Interesting idea – I wonder if that would work Jane. This week I saw a notice on the paper bank at our local recycling centre telling us to put shredded paper in with the cardboard.

    @nadine Sellers: Brilliant – thanks for that!

  18. Jane says:

    @Mrs Green: Council non-collection may mainly be to avoid shredded paper flying around. Avoiding making much is best but any ways to deal with what you have are a great idea. I think people need to be reminded to re-visit the cutting down on junk mail info. The amount arriving seems to creep up on you!

  19. Mrs Green says:

    @Jane: Hi Jane, yes it must be a difficult material to move around, hence the lack of collections. Good point about the junk mail. For me, it is only bank statements or sensitive information that I bother to shred.

  20. Lucy says:

    I collect it all up for my sister who uses it for bedding for her horse. Then it gets composted!

  21. Mrs Green says:

    @Lucy: Fantastic idea, Lucy – I bet the horses love it and the compost benefits too!

  22. Jean Swift says:

    @Dawn:
    A bit late to reply, I know, but I love your idea of mixing shredded paper with grass cuttings, neither of which sits happily in the compost bin in any quantity, to make seed compost. Thank you. I can’t wait to start mowing the grass!
    Regards
    Jean

  23. Teresa says:

    There’s no need to shred all paper waste as many offices do so only shred information that is confidential but some organisations think that every document is confidential even ones they have received from other organisations. Shredding takes energy and recycling companies and councils prefer to recycle unshredded paper.

  24. Jannet says:

    I always thought that councils didn’t like shredded paper because it was too bulky. I then read that the main reason is that the fibres in shredded paper are very short and that the longer the fibres are the better the quality of the recycled paper. Shredded paper is therefore very low grade even the same paper unshredded is good quality paper.

  25. Mrs Green says:

    @Teresa: Thanks for that Teresa. I shred confidential papers, but everything else gets reused or recycled as it is – I tend to use the back of old letters for taking telephone messages / writing shopping lists etc

    @Jannet: Thanks Jannet; I believe that shredded paper is used for making cardboard; is that what you found out?

  26. Teresa Lewis says:

    @Mrs Green. There are voluntary organisations who shred every sheet of paper they want to dispose of rather than putting them out for recycling. It’s so wasteful of energy and time consuming for the poor volunteers lumbered with doing the shredding.

  27. Teresa says:

    Perhaps they think that every piece of paper contains confidential information on it.

    I got up early this morning and shedded lots of waste paper and filled three plastic carrier bags. This afternoon when the rain had stopped I took them down to the garden project and emptied them into the compost bin and mixed them with the horse manure.

  28. Mrs Green says:

    @Elena: Hello Elena, welcome to the site; your artwork is lovely and the quilling really lends itself to flowers. :)

  29. Marlies says:

    I’d use it for what we call here (Netherlands) papier-maché (pronounce as in french)
    Mix it with wallpaper glue and water, make a dough and form it in something you can use: a basket, some office stationary, lamp etc. There are even people who make jewelry out of it.
    The shortness of the paperfibers makes it perfect for this use.
    To provide strenght in your product aline the pieces of paper in the same direction or make a massive product by letting the papiermaché dry and layer it with another coat of papier-maché.
    If you want to make it waterresistant you’ll have to use woodlaquer or paint (not very eco-friendly, hey?)

  30. Tracey says:

    @Angie: I started off trying the Original Logmaker:
    http://www.amazon.co.uk/Logmaker-Original-Dry-Paper/dp/B000PVBS1Y/
    I liked the idea of no mess (you don’t make the paper wet at all). However, it was very difficult to get the paper to compact, so I ended up using my whole body weight on it – from the chest – until I broke the underwire on my bra trying to compress it. I was not impressed. The “logs” often started to fall apart before getting them to the fire, and although they did burn, but they didn’t last very long and left a lot of ash (though this goes on the compost, so it’s not a problem).

    This year, I bought the EkoMania Briquette Maker:
    http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B00177X5YS/
    I have sat watching TV while ripping up the free newspapers and magazines that people are determined to give me on my commute (though newspaper works best), I have used shredded paper from packaging and bank statements. I shred them into a big storage box and then take it outside. I fill it with water from my rainwater butt, put the lid on and leave it for a couple of days. I then take a stool outside and use the logmaker. I find that you don’t feel like you’re getting many logs for the amount of time it took to shred things, but if you’re doing it while watching telly, or for security purposes (so you’d be shredding anyway), then it’s not too bad. The logs do need to dry out, but I’ve got a shelf in my plastic mini-greenhouse and during the summer, they only took a week or 2 to dry out, and then I could bring them indoors. I feel that this is going to be better, but as I’ve not needed to burn any yet, I can’t comment on how they burn. I have only heard good things from friends and work colleagues who use them though.

    I hope this helps

    Best wishes
    ~Tracey

  31. Mrs Green says:

    @Marlies: thanks for all your papier mache tips; I remember making it as a child and always being amazed how resilient it was!

    @Tracey: :D Tracey; you had me in stitches about breaking the underwire in your bra LOL! I’ve used one of the ‘dry’ ones too and found it really difficult to use successfully. It’s great you’ve now found a method that works and that they dry so quickly. A friend of mine must have made his too wet because they never dried out; they just turned mouldy instead! I agree, if you do the log making while you’re doing something else then it’s a bonus; rather than doing it to save money / resources… Please come and tell us how well they burn; if it’s good I might invest in one too ;)

  32. Jenny says:

    @Mrs Green: I keep a shredder in the corner of the kitchen and as soon as the mail is opened and sorted envelopes etc are shredded and put in a garbage bin for recycling into the compost, flooring of fowl house as the base for my no dig vegie garden beds and blended with mulch to “bulk” it up. the only thing I can’t recycle is the glossy paper that comes in the mail any ideas how it could be used??

  33. Mrs Green says:

    @Jenny: Hi Jenny, great idea to have the shredder on hand. No idea about the glossy paper; don’t your council accept it for recycling?

  34. Shawna says:

    We use the long shredded paper pieces in our chicken nesting boxes. It is much cleaner than when we used to use straw. It is also cheaper than straw and it seems to last over twice as long as the straw did. And it is a great composte when you clean the nests out!!

  35. Mrs Green says:

    @Shawna: Great to hear Shawna, as we now have chickens I’ll try this out myself :)

  36. Brendan says:

    Glossy paper can make really interesting wrapping paper to wrap up gifts! ;)

  37. Dot says:

    I line the bottoms of large flower pots with a layer of shredded paper before adding potting soil and organic fertilizer. This helps retain the moisture in the pots and they need less watering. Also, the pots are much lighter and easier to move around.

  38. Karen Hughes says:

    When I had a huge amount of confidential paper that needed shredding I sat for hours over the shredder. It kept jamming and over heating. I soon realised that not all of the paper needed shredded . I removed the important parts and started burning it screwed up in my log burners. I had recently moved house and had 2 new log burners. I have a file in which I keep the bits that need to be burnt and use as required to light the fire. I no longer use the shredder and save electricity, time and effort.

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