Adventist Medical Center (AMC), based in Portland, Ore., recently announced that during the past 12 months it has shredded and recycled 239,000 pounds of confidential medical documents, saving the equivalent of 359 cubic yards of landfill space, over 2,000 trees and more than 836,000 gallons of water.
AMC has worked to recycle its paper since 2005 with help from Cintas Document Management. Cintas estimates that AMC has also collected 115,000 pounds of cardboard in the last year, as well as other paper.
Documents were shredded to be in compliance with patient confidentiality laws. The remains were then collected and recycled by Cintas.
“At Adventist, we’ve worked to make recycling easy and accessible for our employees, which we hope will continue to increase participation throughout our health system,” said Lyndee Lawrence, director of hospitality services for AMC.
So, if shredded paper is recyclable, why not shred all paper documents to be on the safe side? Well, these shreds can pose problems during the recycling process, such as:
- Fiber length—Paper recycling is based on the length of fibers, with longer fibers holding more value. When paper is shredded, fibers are shortened meaning this paper can’t be reprocessed into a new sheet of office paper. It also means the recycling program would make less money when selling this paper to a mill.
- Contamination—Many paper recycling processes use machines to remove contaminants such as staples and plastic windows, and paper shreds can also be extracted in this process. At the same time, shreds of paper are sometimes able to hide contaminants so they won’t be removed prior to recycling.
For reasons like these, it’s worth asking your local recycling program if it accepts shredded paper. If it is accepted, most times the recycler will ask you to separate it from other paper in a bag.