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What do you do with your paper shreddings?

Shreddings

More than half of Which? members put their shredded waste paper out for recycling. Admirable, but is that really the best thing to do with your confetti? And if not, then what should you do with them?

Shredding unwanted private documents is the obvious first line of defence against identity fraud. Which? members tend to be a diligent bunch, so it’s little surprise that our recent survey of 1,228 members found that an impressive 84% of them own a paper shredder.

And more than half of you put the shredded confetti out with your read newspapers, empty plastic food cartons and drained glass bottles for the weekly recycling pick up. But a lot of local councils won’t collect shredded waste for recycling as the tiny pieces and paper fibres can play havoc with the mechanisms at the recycling plant. That means a lot of your shredded paper is finding its way straight into landfill.

Shredding for bedding

Our survey showed that more than half of shredder-owning members either put their shredded waste out for collection with the recycling and a third put it in their bin. But we also learned other ways that the confetti gets used. Two in five take their former bank statements and bills into the garden and add them to their compost pile.

A few dozen use them as kindling for their stove or fireplace. Pet bedding is another use for shreddings, with lucky hamsters and rabbits getting to lay their heads on them for forty winks.

In fact, pets and paper confetti seem to go hand in hand – cat litter trays and lining the bottom of bird cages are other innovative ways our members use their shreddings. While another uses the paper as padding for parcels.

Bye, bye to bills

We also asked about which documents our members choose to shred. Three quarters of paper shredder owners destroy their old bank statements and two thirds cathartically wave farewell to unwanted household bills by mercilessly feeding them into the jaws of their shredder.

But there are other potentially sensitive documents it would be safer to shred when you’re finished with them that you may not have thought of:

  • Junk mail – all a fraudster needs is your name and address to find a way of applying for credit cards in your name.
  • CVs – the personal history you reveal could be used to answer online security questions.
  • Payslips – these often include your national insurance number and workplace details. Ideal fodder for a swindler.
  • Old cheque books – like bank statements, these may reveal your sort code and account number.

Are there any other documents that you make sure are decimated before they leave the house? And what other weird or wonderful uses do you make of your leftover shreddings?

Comments
Profile photo of wavechange
Member

My present council is happy to take shredded paper in the blue bin but I’m moving to an area where residents are asked to wrap their shredded paper in old wrapping paper or newspaper. That seems like a good approach because on windy days, shreddings can blow away when the bins are opened for emptying.

Some newly printed paper stinks of printing ink and I wonder how kind it is to give this to pets.

Member

Wavechange, your comment about printed paper being bad for pets is very valid. It can poison pets as they will chew it. I used to breed rabbits, guinea pigs & hamsters & so am experienced on that subject.

Profile photo of wavechange
Member

Thanks Liz. It was just a guess. Many still feed ducks with bread, even though it’s well established it is harmful if it becomes major part of their diet, and the amount of unsuitable food given to dogs is amazing.

Profile photo of John Ward
Member

I would like to know what degree of human intervention there is in the sorting of the contents of the recycling bins or whether it is largely mechanical. Shredding stacks of paperwork is not exactly my idea of a good time so I do put quite a lot of stuff straight in the recycling bin unshredded in the hope that, with the sheer tonnage they get, it goes straight into the hopper of a giant shredding machine or paper baler. We do shred certain types of document because of the confidential content but lots of stuff with name and address on does go straight in the bin but mixed up with lots of other paper waste.

A lot of periodicals come in plastic wrappers with the name and address printed on a panel on the plastic; I haven’t found an easy way to deal with those except by stretching the plastic wrapper so much that the details distort and become illegible.

Profile photo of wavechange
Member

I do shred anything with my name and address that goes in the recycling bin, but the printed plastic wrappers are a problem and I confess they just go in the black bin. My name and address are fairly common knowledge but goodness knows what barcodes contain.

Profile photo of ronniemay
Member

Anything like plastic address labels can be cut to shreds simply with a pair of scissors, indeed anything that requires shredding if you don’t have a shredder. Cut into long shreds the just simply cut across the long shreds leaving about an inch at the bottom and cutting that last done over a bin or onto an old newspaper.

Profile photo of wavechange
Member

That’s what I used to do Ronnie, but I became lazy. I will try harder.

I still cut credit cards into shreds with scissors otherwise the bits of plastic would get mixed with shredded paper.

Member
Catherine says:
18 February 2016

If I get junk mail or anything else with small amounts of personal detail, I rip off the offending part(s) of the page, shred that piece and recycle the rest of the page with other paper waste. Saves so much time, effort and means I only have to shred for 10 minutes or so once a month.

I’m with you on the plastic stretching, though if it is a sticky label on the wrapping, I cut that off and add it to the shred pile. I bought one of the data obscuring stamps but it doesn’t really work well on plastic.

Member

I put the address part of plastic wrapping between several layers of paper & shred them. They go through easily. I also shred credit & similar cards this way & sticky backed address labels.

Profile photo of PatrickDaniels
Member

My council do not allow shredded paper in blue bins. Fortunately, the quantity
is modest and I put in with my compost in the garden compost bin, where it can decompose. I try to shred any label bearing my name, address and a sender’s reference. I agree that wrapping paper is a problem. Where possible, I burn it in a wood fired stove.

Profile photo of GinaRae
Member

I have just shredded a load of documents dating back to 1976! My shredder is a double cross one. I think they are better than the ones that just shred ‘one way’. Our Council is happy to take a small amount of shredded paper in our large grey bin, eg, plastic and newspaper etc. Here in Scotland, we were given a small purple bin for household rubbish. I thought that it was far too small for household waste, but since I now have a carrier bag inside the kitchen for EVERYTHING paper and plastic, my household waste bin is virtually empty even though it gets emptied only once a fortnight.

Profile photo of Ian6789
Member

My name and address is common knowledge (electoral register) and by numerous companies I have dealt with over the years, not to mention the junk mail received. To shred all documents with my name and address is excessive and whist I shred sensitive personal and financial documents, the likes of junk mail goes straight into the recycling bin.

Profile photo of wavechange
Member

I make a point of telling companies to remove me from their records when moving to another one, but sometimes have to ask again. I wonder if those who advise we switch to better deals realise that they are helping distribute their contact details, increasing the chance that they will be misused.

Since postage costs have gone up, the majority of the junk mail is pushed through the letterbox and does not have my name and address.

Profile photo of william
Member

A nice open fire gets all the paper that would otherwise get shredded. Anything with Name Address gets cut, torn from whatever and added to the pile for burning.

Member
RedKite says:
18 February 2016

It is actuall a good idea to mix layers of shredded paper with the vegetable matter in your compost bin as it helps to reduce the moisture content.

Profile photo of Patrick Steen
Member

And increases the carbon! I remember Monty Don saying that people put far too much green waste in their compost and needed to put more paper and cardboard to make better compost for their plants.

Profile photo of IanMilligan
Member

Whilst in Scotland on holiday I was told to put all waste in one bin as the local council used an anaerobic waste system. I haven’t looked into how this works, but am confused as to why all councils don’t use such a system. Any ideas?

Member
John says:
11 March 2016

I live in Scotland and have never heard of your waste type, we all have 3 bins green for household, blue for paper,plastic,metal, Brown for garden rubbish collected on a Rota of every 2 weeks, Inverness council codes this

Profile photo of duncan lucas
Member

John -he is probably talking about the brown bin unless he was living on a farm where there is a anaerobic company in Turriff Aberdeenshire + others which disposes of waste . Its a big con anyway many Scottish councils dont have recycling plants and just dump all the waste together and send it down to England by lorry —lorry= diesel fuel /fumes /cost etc. So much for environmentalist principles .

Profile photo of ClareB
Member

I live near a swan sanctuary and save all my shredded paper for bedding for the swans. But they can only have strips, not criss-cross, which goes into a mulch, so whenever I buy a new shredder I always make sure it shreds in strips!

Profile photo of terfar
Member

Unfortunately, we have no option but to burn our confidential paper.

Profile photo of Cydee
Member

Don’t shred; I just rip-off the identifying parts eg address, any codes etc. Tear those into pieces in the ordinary bin and the rest goes into recycling in one piece. Yes, and I include spam-mail!

Profile photo of wavechange
Member

I usually tear off these bits and put them through the shredder. There’s no point in generating more shredded paper than necessary.

Member

I use herb cutting scissors, they have about 4 or 5 blades, and just shred the area that contains name and address and any other personal details. This reduces the amount of shredding greatly.

Profile photo of Di
Member

We use ours for horse bedding. Stable yards will often welcome it as it saves on the use of shavings and then ends up on the muck heap and rotted down and used as fertiliser.

Member
John Simpson says:
18 February 2016

I think it is a bit alarmist warning us to shred junk mail containing our name and address because judging by the amount of addressed junk mail we get already then it must be public knowlege anyway. I think that, it is more likely to passed on to third parties by organization’s we’ve given our details to for delivery of goods and services than by someone rummaging though my rubbish bin.

Profile photo of RogerAllingham-Mills
Member

I shred some paper for security reasons and this now goes down the garden to the composting bin, a new venture for me, the idea being to reduce Council collected waste.

Member

I have a friend who runs an animal sanctuary, so all my families shredded paperwork goes to her. With regard to the plastic wrapper with my name on I cut them into very tiny pieces, first one way then another, then I put them in my pedal bin that is used for used cat litter- I dont think anyone will be digging around in that.

Profile photo of ElaineKH
Member

We shred all paperwork (or parts of documents) which contain personal details. The resultant pile of squiggly paper goes into my husband’s impressively large compost bins, never to be seen again!

Profile photo of Lynnc
Member

Shredded paper goes into our ‘brown’ compost bin along with garden and food waste, it works!

Profile photo of haydncullen-jones
Member

A slightly misleading article there are councils who segregate paper waste fro other recyclates and hence their is no threat to the MRF. Sadly however there is a lack of paper mills in UK so it may well go to China.

Member
Shaggy says:
19 February 2016

Our shredded paper goes into the plot, the runner beans, potatoes love it, just single dig in over winter, if you have a big enough plot, fantastic veg through the growing season.

Profile photo of Ian
Member

I suppose, like most, I’m distinctly wary about dishing out personal details to anyone, let alone companies from whom we buy stuff. I do realise it’s preferable for stuff bought on the internet to reach your home, so giving those companies your address is probably useful, although there’s been quite a growth, in the last couple of years, of the ‘pick-up point’ option, which makes it easier to conceal the precise location of one’s cave or castle.

But it’s also worth bearing in mind a couple of other things: ID theft, as the DFM loves to proclaim it, is nothing new. Pretending to be someone else has long been the hobby (and sometimes full-time occupation) of many for as long as I can remember, so perhaps we’re being stampeded into a corral of fear by the tabloid comics, instead of thinking more rationally about the entire problem and then taking reasoned and well thought-through steps to avoid the more common and predictable issues.

I’m not denying that the internet has enabled the ID thief to become considerably more productive, not to say imaginative: that’s exactly why we have to educate ourselves and our families about the risks of being overly sympathetic towards that really nice chap from Nigeria who’s had such a nasty time when his entire family was deposed and forced to flee, although one has to wonder just how many thousands of the Nigerian Royal Family there were.

But it is about education, learning and adopting strategies that we know will afford some protection. We have to develop good habits when we’re dealing with the outside world, and not simply rely on instinct.

Our names and addresses are out there. They’re all over the place, in thousands of ledgers, lists, letters and licences and people and companies know who we are, where we live and what we do. So given that buying a paper shredder or even burning your stuff is very much akin to fitting a shiny new five-bar gate to an unfenced field what should we be doing?

I’ve long thought an odd relationship exists between the internet and those who use it. It’s almost as though many view the internet as a Magic Place, populated by wondrous creatures and mythical beasts. Okay, perhaps not quite as overt as that, but this seeming awe, this willingness to suspend our normally rational wariness of strangers and lycanthropes seems to overrule our common sense.

To put it in perspective, if there was a knock at the door and a black man with a pronounced Nigerian accent, speaking in broken English explained he was a prince with a vast fortune he couldn’t unlock unless a kindly Hobbit were to share bank account details with him I doubt many would even open the door in the first place, let alone kick the cat out of the way in the rush to find their bank book and share the details of their account before loaning him a large amount of cash from under the bed.

So why is it that exactly that takes place on the internet? Some scams are considerably cleverer than that of course, but the principle remains the same. We simply have to remember that very, very, very few people become the recipients of large wads of cash for doing absolutely nothing. Even Footballers have to run about a bit.

Profile photo of wavechange
Member

@adam-marshall – We are advised to shred junk mail so that no-one can use our name and address to apply for a credit card in our name. My name, address and phone number appear in the telephone directory and there are other ways that my name and address could be found.

I’m no expert but if names and addresses are being used to apply for credit cards then surely the answer should be to tackle the card providers.