Can Shredded Paper Be Recycled?


There are a lot of myths and apparent contradictions about what can and cannot go into recycle bins. Paper and card should be one of the more straightforward kerbside collections, but there are still nuances. So, can shredded paper by recycled?

Shredded paper can be recycled, however not all local authorities accept it in kerbside collections. Some will not take it at all for recycling, some have rules about how it should be wrapped and others allow it loose in your paper wheelie bin.

shredded paper in shredder basket

Can Shredded Paper Go In Recycling?

For your local kerbside collections, there is a huge variation between councils across the UK. Check your local authority’s website for specific details in your area.

Can You Put Shredded Paper In The Paper Bin?

If your council allows shredding in the paper recycling wheelie bin then that’s the one to put it in. It may be that you are able to tip it into the bin straight from the shredder basket or there may be additional guidance.

If you’re asked to put it into a paper box or bag, then re-using other recycling in your paper bin is perfect. Cereal boxes in particular are ideal as they usually have the closable flaps on top to help keep the box closed. If you’ve got a lot of shredded paper, then a delivery box might be better (and quicker) to make use of.

If you use paper bags to keep the shredded paper together, don’t fill it to the top, that way you can fold it over a few times to prevent any falling out into the recycling wheelie bin.

Why Is Shredding A Problem In Wheelie Bins?

If you pay much attention to human behaviour on bin days, you’ll know that certain neighbours always insist on putting their bins out far earlier than is necessary, sometimes even the previous day.

Most councils ask residents to put their bins at the kerbside ready for collection before around 7am on collection day – but you’ll often see them start to appear from mid afternoon the day before.

The reason that there are rules around the times bins can be put out for collection is to keep the streets (and the wider environment) clean and tidy. The longer bins are out, the greater chance that the wind will catch one or two of them, and it’s a big job to pick up the contents of even a single wheelie bin as it blows down the road.

If you specifically consider paper bin collections, if you’ve got loose shredding in there and it blows over (or is helped onto its side by an anti social passer by), shredded paper can travel a long way fast. It’s also very difficult to collect up again.

It’s worth noting – if your bin does blow over you could be fined for fly tipping. It’s a very broad definition, and broadly means that if your waste does not end up being disposed of correctly, you are considered liable. That means that on windy days, it’s wise not to put your bin out any earlier than is absolutely necessary, and perhaps even not at all if it’s obviously going to empty itself out along the street.

For this reason, some councils have opted to require shredded paper to be contained within a bag or box as explained above.

Other authorities have accepted that recycling is more important overall, and accept it loose to make things easy for residents.

The remaining councils do not accept shredded paper at all, and usually require it to be bagged securely (for example in a plastic bag) in the general waste bin. Ideally, if you’re in an area where this is the case, taking it to your nearest supermarket recycling point would be a far better solution next time you go shopping.

In terms of the processing of paper recycling, it used to be the case that the shredded paper could fall off processing lines or even get caught up in machinery. Today that’s much less of an issue because recycling methods have evolved and companies understand the importance of widespread recycling – that includes materials that have been through a shredder.

How Do You Dispose Of Confidential Shredded Paper?

There are various levels of confidential when it comes to shredding documents. In the strictest sense, businesses are required to treat personal information of customers, suppliers and anyone else carefully, and that means destroying it before disposal so it cannot fall into the wrong hands.

Confidential business waste cannot be placed into residential waste bins for collection, so confidential shredded paper from business is not an issue for kerbside collections. Personal confidential documents can be shredded and dispose of with other shredded paper.

You should, however, shred things like bank statements, letters and anything else with your personal information on it. Of course, bank statements and other financial records are particularly sensitive, but you should think carefully about anything that could help fraudsters build up a picture of your identity.

For example, if you throw away your insurance renewal quote, that could tell someone going through your bin who your provider is. The envelope your bank statements come in might reveal who you bank with even though your name isn’t on it. These small nuggets of information all give a little more away about you, so be careful, and if in doubt, use the shredder.

In most cases, simply shredding paper is good enough to keep you reasonably protected. If you want to be extra safe, use a cross cut shredder, as that make it extra hard to piece a document back together or learn anything from individual pieces.

If you want to be totally safe though, you can research confidential waste removal services on the web, but they’re generally overkill for residential use.

Is Shredded Paper Good For Gardens?

If you have green fingers and compost in the garden, it’s not just leftover food, green waste and garden weeds that can go into the compost bin. Did you know shredded paper can go in too?

Shredded paper is great for making compost. Putting it into your compost bin is a great way to re-use it and creates less emissions than a big bin lorry carrying it away.

Can You Put Shredded Paper In Compost Pile?

The compost pile or compost bin will take time to break down shredded paper, but it’s absolutely fine to do.

Make sure that there isn’t too much placed into the composter at any one time, you don’t want it to be making up the majority of your compost pile! The key is to add a little shredded paper from time to time, so adding it as you shred is a better option than destroying months of junk mail and documents in one go to empty in.

How Long Does It Take For Shredded Paper To Decompose?

In your compost bin, assuming that there’s plenty of food and plant based waste in the mix too, shredded paper can break down much faster than you might imagine and certainly a lot faster than other materials do.

Shredded paper can decompose in a compost bin or pile in as little as four weeks, with six weeks being typical. It will take longer if there’s a lot of paper to break down, so try to keep the balance of material in your compost bin towards garden and food waste.

Compost thrives on being damp, warm and generally being a great environment for the microbes to thrive. Too much paper can dry it out, so go easy and add a little often rather than a big bagful in one go.

Liam Gifford

I'm Liam. I spent twenty four years on the bins in South Yorkshire and now spend my time on recycling projects. I created this site to use my knowledge of how the rounds work, and what people need to know about getting their wheelie bins emptied every week.

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