Can you put shredded paper in the recycling?

If you’re still using a home shredder, you have probably faced the issue of what to do with your shredded paperwork. Is it safe to put long paper strips into an unlocked bin? Will your local council even accept shredded paper in the recycling? The answer is not always straightforward.

What are the risks associated with putting shredded paper into recycling bins?

Most home shredding machines are costly to buy and maintain, and most standard models will only cut paper into long strips. These strips are easy to reassemble. If you leave these fragments in an unlocked bin in an area accessible to the public, you open them up to the risk of theft and reassembly. This is especially the case if you are only shredding a few documents at a time.

With a shredding service provider, your paperwork gets cut into small fragments, not long strips. They are also mixed with tonnes of other documents in a process called commingling. This process means that paper fragments from the same original document would be almost impossible to find, let alone reassemble. Another reason that a shredding service is a more secure option is that your documents will never have to be left outside unattended. We will collect them straight from your front door. For home shredding customers, we can even provide heavy-duty sacks and cable ties for you to store paperwork before collection.

Why do some councils not accept shredded paper?

If you still want to shred at home, you then have the issue of what to do with your shredded papers. Recycling in your normal recycling bin may not be possible as some local councils do not accept shredded paper. There are several reasons for this.

When councils collect your recycling, they will usually take it to a Materials Recovery Facility (MRF). MRFs are specialists in sorting different types of recyclables. Our friends over at Grundon have a fantastic video showing how this process works. Once materials are separated, they are typically sent to specialist re-processor facilities.

The issue? Some MRFs do not accept shredded paper. This is because it can jam machines, and the paper fragments may be too small to segregate by hand. If they do not accept shredded paper, councils are left stuck between a rock and a hard place. Councils want to keep costs as low as possible for constituents. If the council’s local MRF does not accept shredded material, it can be more cost-effective for councils to bear the inconvenience than to try to find an MRF further away, where transport costs will be higher.

A secondary reason could be that collecting shredded paper can be a messy business. If, in the midst of a recycling collection, your shredded paper gets carried away by a gust of wind, that creates work for the council’s street cleaning team.

What should you do if your local council doesn’t accept shredded paper?

If your local council doesn’t accept shredded paper, you can put it into a compost bin. This only works, however, if the paper isn’t coloured or glossy. This is because coloured and glossy papers may contain chemicals that are harmful to plant life.

Alternatively, you could deposit your shredded paper at your local paper bank or put it into your general waste bin, though these aren’t the most secure or environmentally friendly options.

The best solution would be to use a shredding service provider rather than shredding at home. This will ensure your data is kept fully secure, is handled only by security vetted personnel, and prevents recyclables from going to landfill. Shredding services are also much more cost-effective than you might think!

At Shred Station, we recycle 100% of the paper we shred and are a CarbonNeutral® certified company. If you’d like to learn more about the shredding services we provide, head over to our shredding services page.

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