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Because You Asked

How Do I Recycle Shredded Paper?

By Recyclebank |

While shredded paper is technically recyclable, it can be a burden on your local facility. Here are some guidelines to help you navigate the process.

Dear Recyclebank: What about shredded paper — can I recycle it with my other items? I would definitely need to use bags for this! –Joanne G.

Dear Joanne:
Shredded paper is one of those items for which restrictions vary widely from area to area. While paper itself is clearly worth trying to recycle, once it’s shredded, its fibers may be too short to be processed into new paper, or a facility may simply not have the setup to process it efficiently without flyaways and jammed machinery. For this reason, many municipalities do not accept it.

If your city or town does accept shredded paper, you’re right that the shreds will almost certainly need to be bagged in order to keep all the small pieces from becoming litter or getting sorted with other materials. Some cities, like Philadelphia, prefer shredded paper to be placed within a paper bag, while others request plastic bags (despite their own recyclability issues). The bag may also need to be sealed, as in Fort Worth, TX. The Los Angeles area is particularly complex, with different suburbs having very different requirements. Some cities are able to accept shredded paper only at designated drop-off areas, rather than at curbside pickup. Ohio’s Cuyahoga County, which includes Cleveland, mandates that residents bring shredded paper to designated public containers. Meanwhile, some cities do not publicly specify their requirements for shredded paper. As always, when in doubt, you’ll want to check directly with your handler.

You still have options if your area doesn’t accept shredded paper for recycling. If you compost at home, it’s a simple addition to the pile. If you prefer to reuse the paper, it makes great packing material when you ship packages and gifts. You may also want to consider donating it to an animal rescue to serve as bedding material, or see if anyone you know has a small pet that could use it.

The best solution to the shredded paper dilemma may be to avoid shredding all together. Eco-Cycle in Boulder, CO, recommends that rather than shredding sensitive documents, you simply mark out any private information with a black permanent marker until it can’t be seen, since ink is removed during the recycling process anyway. Once the sensitive subjects are covered up, you can then recycle the paper whole.

City of Detroit, City of Philadelphia Streets Department, Cuyahoga County Solid Waste District, Los Angeles Times - L.A. at Home, RecycleNation


How does your city or town deal with shredded paper in the recycling stream? We’d love to hear more in the comments!

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  • John D. 7 months ago
    Some folks here would love to have lots of the stuff right now. Burn baby burn.
  • Laurel B. 7 months ago
    See if there is a Paper Retriever recycling dumpster near you, usually in church and/or school parking lots. They take shredded paper, as long as you bag it up and label the bag as "shredded paper", and the organization makes money off of it as well. Everyone (and the earth) is a winner!
  • Javier M. 7 months ago
    I would like to shred this Texas weather to little tiny bits!
    • RANDY R. 7 months ago
      Pennsylvania Too! It's been, like 14° - 35° for weeks and weeks and the 0°s are coming next. Too much cold. The past years have been muddy, ugly, but warm. Now every day is a cold White snowy day. It's putting the ' Pitts ' in Pittsburgh.
    • Barbara B. 7 months ago
      Oklahoma has been getting it bad with BELOW Zero temps. We have been colder than Alaska. Our pipes are only buried 18" to 24" and not able to handle this weather. Power grids here are having problems and having to use intermittent outages. Burst water pipes everywhere! The plumbers are rubbing their hands together, and just wait till it all thaws.
    • Barbara B. 7 months ago
      Driving on ICE is difficult, especially if you not use to it.
      I saw the pics from Texas, I feel for your guys.
  • Lois S. 7 months ago
    Shredded paper goes into my compost bin.
  • Carrie P. 7 months ago
    Shredding events in the DFW area will take already shredded paper. I also use mine to start the logs in my fireplace.
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