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How to Recycle Shredded Paper: Instructions and Alternatives to Try

Can shredded paper be recycled? Here's how to go about it correctly, as well as ways to use shredded paper at home.

Written by
Inga Vallery Phlegar

Many of us have a recycling bin in our homes. We don't think twice about the paper that goes in there: everything from printer paper to newspaper makes the cut. However, there's one type of paper that doesn't get the same treatment: shredded paper.

Shredding paper can be necessary for certain situations. Maybe you need to get rid of documents containing personal information to protect yourself from identity theft, or maybe you work in an industry that deals with clients' personal information. Either way, you're left with piles of shredded paper, and you need an eco-friendly way to dispose of it.

So, can you recycle shredded paper? Here's everything you need to know.

How to Recycle Shredded Paper

After you throw paper in the recycling bin, it gets picked up and taken to your local recycling facility. Upon arrival, the paper gets sorted so that it's separate from other types of recycling, such as plastic. After that, the paper is taken to a paper mill where it's shredded and put into a machine called a pulper.

One of the steps of the recycling process is shredding the paper. So, doesn't that make the recycling process easier at the paper mill? Unfortunately, this isn't the case because the smaller, thin pieces of paper from our shredders interfere in multiple parts of the recycling process.

It's also difficult to sort shredded paper out from other contaminants, such as small pieces of glass or plastic. If the paper gets through the sorting process, it can cause jams and ruin machines. In addition, the fibers in shredded paper are shorter, and may be too short to be made into new paper.

Because of these issues, recycling shredded paper can be tricky. But there is something you can do to make the process smoother for recycling centers. While dumping shredded paper in your recycling bin along with other items creates sorting issues, putting your shredded paper in a clear bag in your curbside bin allows the workers to see exactly what it is and avoid any sorting issues.

Another solution is trying to keep as much of the papers intact as you can. You can rip off and shred the parts that contain private information, then put the rest of the paper in your recycling bin. This ensures as much paper as possible gets recycled.

Before attempting to recycle shredded paper, call your local recycling center and see if they have any specific guidelines in place. By speaking with someone, you'll know exactly what the recycling process is in your area.

6 Alternatives to Recycling Shredded Paper

If you need to shred paper but your local recycling center won't accept it, even using the methods above, there are several ways you can upcycle it and keep it out of landfills.

1. Compost It

Shredded paper is a great addition to your compost bin. It's rich in carbon and will help the composting process move along, turning everything inside into rich, new soil!

2. Use It in a Seed Starter

If you don't have a compost bin yet, use the shredded paper in your seed starter! Making your own seed starter is a fun DIY project, and because the paper is carbon-rich, it can help you easily grow seeds into plants.

3. Make Eco-Friendly Confetti

Another use for shredded paper is turning it into confetti. Plastic, store-bought confetti is an ecological nightmare. Using shredded paper can create a more eco-friendly alternative to confetti, without the consequences.

When you're done with it, simply scoop it up and save it in a reusable baggie for your next celebration. Or put it into your compost bin.

4. Create Art Projects

If you love a good DIY, try using your excess shredded paper as paper mache. You can make a piñata, a bowl, or a one-of-a-kind sculpture. It's a creative and inexpensive way to create art.

5. Fill Boxes

Shredded paper can replace Styrofoam packaging, which isn't easily recyclable. It's light and fluffy, which gives it volume without having a lot of weight. It can also be protective, keeping breakable items intact. If you want to send something fragile in the mail, shredded paper can provide some cushioning.

6. Use It as Vase Filler

You can use shredded paper the same way you would use marbles or other filler substances in your vases and baskets. Shredded paper can even take up the volume of an Easter basket, helping you ditch fake plastic "grass" for good.

The opportunities for shredded paper are endless! How will you make use of yours?