/ 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?


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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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?

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

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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!

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

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!

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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!

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

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.

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.