/ Home & Energy, Money, Sustainability

What do you do with your paper 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?


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.

@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.

Ashley says:
25 September 2019

I use shredded paper for this:

+ Packing boxes when I post things
+ Sowing seeds that moisture such as runner beans
+ Make fire-starting logs
+ Stuffing a scarecrow or guy-fawks guy
+ For packing things away for storage

I wrote my other ideas in this article.

Ashley – Thanks for all your tips on shredding paper waste. I am afraid we do what we can but there is still a whole bin-load of recyclable material going out every fortnight of which probably 75% is paper. There is a limit to how much packing material we can use and since we don’t use our wood-burner or have any pets we have no need for a regular supply of shreddings.

I read your Savings Tips piece with interest and, in particular, your comment “After all, there are plenty of other things you can do with your shredded paper, and even if you end up throwing the paper out, it is not like it takes years to decompose in landfills“. I watched a television programme a few months ago where they were looking inside old landfill sites to see how the decomposition process was going. It was not really surprising that plastic bags and other plastic articles were still intact because the compression of the overburden on the site meant there was no opportunity for natural digestion to take place, but what was remarkable was that twenty-year old copies of tabloid newspapers had barely degraded at all and were still readable. I suspect that even a bundle of shredded paper would remain unaffected after decades of storage in a compacted and sealed landfill site.

Some local councils will not accept shredded paper in the household recycling bin so it has to go in the general refuse bin and will either be used as landfill or incinerated. Neither destination is wonderful so it is possibly better to leave waste paper intact [except where there is a need to remove identifying information] so that it can be recycled and reprocessed for paper-based products. Having been a diligent early shredder I have not used my machine for several years now.

I think your articles and people’s day-to-day experience demonstrate that there are not really many things we can usefully do with waste paper so the best policy would be to stop the supply and circulation of unwanted commercial material. Half of any newspaper goes unread so I have stopped buying them, most subscription magazines come with flyers and other inserts that go straight in the recycling bin, paper rubbish comes through the letter box every day, and there is still too much packaging waste that cannot be reused easily.

All power to your elbow, but I think society has to progress to a strategic solution for surplus paper and stop it at source.

Phil says:
20 July 2020

I remember watching a programme years ago in which they cut into a landfill site and most of it was paper. There were newspapers over 100 years old still intact and readable.

As John says in anaerobic conditions things decay very slowly if at all.

robert says:
11 June 2021

Lets say 1million buy a magazine or paper you work for. your neighbor works in a paper supply company. 500k stop buying news papers/ magazines. So your and neighbor’s firm decide to shed staff, you both lose your jobs.

That’s really good question! Firstly, i didn’t know what to do with that things after my first shredder purchase (some of these https://www.bestadvisers.co.uk/best-shredders ). but then i found a really good cervice in London (londonrecycles). It’s really good way to recycle all type of waste

Joanna says:
14 May 2021

I like to turn the hot tap on my bath,rip up the old papers let them soak and then either mush em up let them dry out and add it to my compost or add pva glue and make art with it 🤗