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Privacy concerns: Is shredding paper & recycling it safe?

Tuesday, February 18, 2014   by: Greener Ideal

Don’t Put Shredded Paper Out for Recycling If You Want to Keep Your Personal Stuff Private


Personal paper shredders are about as common as the printers which created the private and personal documents in the first place.


From tax and financial information, resumes and cover letters, business plans and proposals, to love letters from an old flame (which you don’t want your current love to ever see), we shred and recycle all sorts of serious and silly things from our personal lives.


Shredding personal or sensitive documents that you’d rather not have prying eyes see has been thought as the best way to keep our private information secure.


There are different types of personal paper shredders for different budgets and needs. Strip cut paper shredders, which provide the least amount of security, only shred an average letter-sized page into about 40 to 50 strips. Cross-cut shredders turn your private documents into confetti, while micro-cut shredders, which offer the best protection, chop an average letter-sized piece of paper into about 1,600 to 3,000 tiny pieces. There are even shredders that will destroy CDs and credit cards.


However, shredded paper may actually clog recycling facilities not designed specifically for the narrow strands of paper.


As many municipalities around the globe are moving towards single-stream recycling systems to make the process more efficient, these big sorters may actually clog, or worse, spew out your private information for others to see.


Imagine that love letter from an old flame strewn out all over the floor of the recycling plant, as the complete strangers running the machine watch. Granted, they’d be in thin strips, that would take a small army forever to piece together to make any sense of.


What’s that saying again – about the Devil having work for idle hands?


Regardless of how finely you shred your most personal and private documents, if they end up in idle hands, suddenly your private life may not be so private.


This is because of the nature of paper – it is made of fibers. Longer fibers are more highly regarded in traditional recycling processes, as the process of recycling it repeatedly shortens those fibers. Shorter fiber paper becomes softer and isn’t able to be used for writing or printing.


The shorter fiber paper is classified as “mixed use” paper, which is a lower grade of paper – it’s the stuff they make toilet and tissue paper from.


So what’s this have to do with that shredded love letter from an old flame?


When you shred paper, it shortens the fibers, which may get stuck in your municipalities single-stream recycling system, coughed out by it for all to see, or even be rejected by it before making it into the machine.


So that shredded love letter from an old flame may ultimately get diverted into a waste stream, and end up in the local landfill – provided idle hands didn’t piece it together.


That is unless you send your personal and private documents to a company, which specializes in the shredding and recycling of shredded paper products.


These companies have specialized machines that can handle the shorter fiber shredded paper, or have other environmentally-friendly ways of handling shredded paper, such as composting it.


So that love letter from an old flame could be shredded into worm food, and in turn, soil for the flower, which you give to your current love.


Who says love isn’t recyclable?

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