While it’s still paper, shredded paper enters a whole different category the second it exits the shredder. The good news is that shredded paper can still be recycled, but it comes with a few rules and research to make sure it’s done properly.
Why does it fall into a different category? Well, for starters, when you shred paper, it breaks down the paper fibers, which makes it less valuable to use for recycled paper products. Once it is shredded, it also makes it a lot more difficult to sort and recycle in the processes that a lot of recycling centers follow. We also see short fibers in paper towels, which is why paper towels can’t be recycled.
For intact pieces of paper or cardboard, once they arrive at a recycling facility, they are normally sorted and then bundled into big units of paper. These big bundles of paper will then go through the cleaning and pulping process to be used in recycled paper products. Things like flat cardboard boxes and full pieces of paper are pretty easy to pull together when making these big bundles. So, if you’re wondering, “Is wrapping paper recyclable” or “Can you recycle cardboard,” the answer is yes! But shreds of paper are a whole different challenge. They can fly away and get into machinery or ball up into clusters, disturbing the process.
Is shredded paper recyclable?
As stated above, yes, it is, but it definitely has its challenges. Since it will require a different technique or process for facilities to recycle this paper, if standard rules are not followed, there is a high likelihood that the shredded paper will just end up in a landfill. Here are a few things to keep in mind to make sure your shredded paper is recyclable:
Contact your local pickup for clarification
We state this in regards to a lot of recycling, but it is always good to check with your local pickup service to make sure you understand the exact rules in your area. Every area or facility may have different requirements, such as separating the shredded paper before pickup. You can also research and find a recycling center willing to recycle shredded paper.
Look for local programs and groups
While many recycling programs and facilities have issues with shredded paper, there are plenty of groups that welcome shredded paper. This may take a little more research and will vary by area, but companies such as BoxGiver and others will take the shredded paper and guarantee its recycling/reuse.
4 Ways To Use Recycled Paper After Shredding
Shredded paper recycling is more difficult than electronics recycling. With electronics recycling, there's almost a certainty that each component can be transferred or dismantled to form another unit after they are dropped in a sorting facility. The goal is to minimize garbage in yard waste collection, and electronics recycling is a great way to reuse precious metals and parts.
The best case scenario for paper would be to not shred it in the first place. By keeping it intact, you are drastically improving the chances for that paper to be properly recycled and not end up in a landfill. There are plenty of creative ways to reuse paper, even if it has sensitive information on it. For example, you can block out the sensitive information with a sharpie and then use the other side of the paper for coloring or other arts and crafts.
If the paper is shredded, though, here are a few ways you can reuse it.
Arts & crafts
We mentioned using pieces of paper for arts and crafts above, but shredded paper can also be a handy thing to have for art classes or studios. So ask around to local schools or shops in your area and see if anyone is in need of some shredded paper or uses it consistently.
Another great thing to use shredded paper for is to use it as protection or buffer for packaging. If you are shipping something fragile or packing up for a move - having shredded paper around is perfect to add to boxes to try and prevent anything inside from breaking in the process.
This will depend on a few factors - is the paper free of toxic chemicals, and have only plant-based inks been used on the paper? If both of these are true, then you can add the paper to your composting pile. Composting also works for other types of paper products, such as paper towels, glossy paper, milk cartons, toilet paper core, paper containers, paper bags, etc.
Here's another recycling tip: We’ve talked about arts and crafts a few times now, but why should art classes get to have all the fun with shredded paper? One fun way to reuse shredded paper is to build a pinata! You can find different ways to do it online, but grab some cardboard from a delivery box and cut it into a fun structure. Add whatever goodies you would like to the middle, and then seal it up with some tape or adhesive. Then use some adhesive on the outside and apply the shredded paper, so it sticks to it.
Let us know how you reuse shredded paper in your home! We are always excited to hear the resourceful ways that people reuse products. Similarly at Reel Paper, we use 100% recycled paper to make our recycled paper towels to combat deforestation. Our tree-free paper products come in recyclable cardboard boxes without extra plastic, so you can continue the cycle of reusing paper goods.