For the most part, people are inherently good. There are very few who will pass up the opportunity to be an upstanding planetary citizen, particularly when given a relatively easy way to recycle (curbside pick-up, for example). Glass, cans, plastic? Sure, why not, sounds good. Newspaper? Bring it on. Office and personal documents? Um, wait just a cotton-pickin’ second. With identity theft at an all-time high, recycling paper that contains sensitive information on it — even if it is shredded into oblivion— is unappealing to most. The advent of paper shredders became a godsend to security-concerned consumers, with leaps in protection from strip-cut to crosscut and finally micro-cut processing. Soon, unwanted office documents could be pulverized en masse by shredding companies, or the final product could be taken to drop-off centers for responsible recycling (which, in many cases, entails being sent to a paper mill, where it is pulped and transformed into new paper). Here’s the catch. With countless documents to purge from every corner of today’s workplace, not all of us are diligent in terms of removing staples, clear cellophane envelope windows and the like. Shredding machines are designed to chew up just about anything, which is convenient for us. But it is hardly handy for paper mills, since their machinery is very sensitive, easily jamming up when small fragments are incorporated into their pulp slurry. You may have the best intentions when you try to recycle your shredded documents, but many municipal recycling programs won’t even consider accepting the material simply because it is so challenging to remove foreign objects from the mix. To heap insult upon injury, many feel that once paper is chopped up in a shredder, the fibers are compromised, resulting in a new generation of poorer-quality paper. How can we make the process truly sustainable? Only one brilliant designer has come up with a solution that addresses multiple issues. Tom Ballhatchet’s hamster-powered desktop shredder makes mincemeat out of sensitive documents one at a time, not only enabling portly rodents to whittle their waists down in 45-minute increments, but also creating fresh, new bedding that even the most devout identity thieves would be hesitant to sort through. Then again, you might just want to reuse your shredded papers in the following unique ways:
- Artsy individuals might want to try their hand at making a set of shredded paper bird’s nest bowls, moldable paper clay, earthy-looking handmade paper or repurposing bits as party confetti.
- Take a page from Charles Kaisin’s book by giving a tired old chair a funky facelift with the application of oodles of shredded paper.
- Contact local animal shelters and find out if they accept shredded paper donations to use for bedding and/or litter. You might also consider making your own homegrown cat litter, which would be far easier on the wallet and absolve yourself of the strip mining sins inherent with conventional clay cat litter.
- Use shredded paper to cushion Christmas ornaments or other delicate household items, whether you plan to move or you just want to store them for later use.
- Ditch the packing peanuts whenever you ship items in the mail and instead use free recycled shredded paper!
- When repotting plants, add shredded paper to the lower portion a pot before you top it with soil to help facilitate drainage. The same concept can be applied to outdoor planting beds.
- A composting pile and/or a worm bin magically transforms a large volume of shredded paper into black gold as long as you augment it with a mix of organic kitchen/yard scraps.
- Fireplace fans can create homemade fire starters, either by using a paper log device that transforms shredded paper into burnable bricks or packing recycled cardboard toilet paper/paper towel cores with unwanted paper strips.