Is Shredded Paper Recyclable?

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Photo: Flickr/Mike Haw

The answer is yes, but…Here at Earth911, we’re often asked, “Is shredded paper recyclable?”

Paper consists of fibers. The longer the fiber, the more valuable the paper is during the recycling process. As paper is recycled over and over, the fibers become shorter and must be downcycled into tissue or toilet paper. While these materials are still valuable, they’re not as valuable as nice, white office paper with long fibers.

Once you shred your personal documents, it shortens the fibers and lowers the grade of paper from high grade to mixed grade. Mixed grade paper is still recyclable, but you may have a harder time finding a recycler who will take it.

Keep in mind that shredded paper has to be contained during transportation, so if your community recycling program doesn’t accept paper or plastic bags, it likely won’t take shredded paper.

However, when communities hold e-cycling events, document destruction is often included, so check with your local recycling center or household hazardous waste facility to see what is included in the e-cycling event.

Before shredding your paper, think about why you need to shred it. Are there are just a few lines of information that you want to keep protected?Then try using Wite-Out or ink to conceal the information. Ink and Wite-Out don’t affect the recycling process.

Paper is also compostable, so if you must shred your paper, try mixing it with your compost pile – of course this is best with nontoxic inks.

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