The US Federal Trade Commission estimates that there are 9 million cases of identity theft per year in the USA and recommends that individuals defend themselves by shredding financial documents before disposal. Whipped up into worrying about important papers falling into the wrong hands, we got caught up in the mad rush to shred about 10 years ago.
I also suspect that I was particularly drawn to this device because it reminded me of one of my favorite kitchen items – our pasta maker.
So the shredder sat on my office floor , awaiting its chance to noisily chew up top secret paper and making one crazy confetti mess whenever its attractive black mesh basket had to be emptied.
It had always been a little cranky. I had to position the heavy shredder top just so and then wiggle it to coax it to slice all of our super secret files into paper spaghetti.
Its downfall came when I attended a workshop of sheet composting. One of the materials suggested for the carbon portion of the compost was shredded paper. My mind raced to the teetering stack of paper left over from obsolete projects. I use the back sides of all these sheets, but I never catch up with myself. So I was thrilled to think I had discovered the perfect reuse for this material.
I set to work turning the not-quite-punchy-enough ending of a middle grade novel into something profoundly useful and spent several hours generating bags of this fluffy, promising product.
Then, the shredder choked on me. No matter how many different ways I tried to nudge her around on her basket – she would not shred.
Doug was called in to provide resuscitation. He revived the motor, but the blades would not engage. Poor Shredder whined a pitiful, high-pitched din but her blades could not be made to engage. Eventually we have had to accept our shredder’s passing. I probably overheated it by not pausing enough.
Here are some tips for shredder health that I should have read earlier.
Now that its gone, I don’t plan to buy another shredder. I have learned that shredded paper is a triple environmental threat.
1. Paper is made of fibers, and shredding chops them into short pieces. This is bad because the longer the paper fiber, the higher grade paper. Short fibers make low-grade paper and can be remade into new paper less times.
2. Shredded paper often ends up being discarded with contaminants by machines that clean paper for recycling.
3. Most paper mills that use recycled paper sort used paper by quality, and it’s not practical to sort shredded paper strips.
Also, I read that in some cases, shredded documents can be put back together. The noodles from the same document are often found close to each other in a confetti pile. So shredding may not be as safe as it looks. I think I can be a little more careful. The actual identity data can be snipped off and bagged to start our next fire.
Even better — if you are interested in vermiculture, I’m told that worms thrive on paper, and reduce all documents well beyond recovery. I sense a worm farm in my future.
How do you deal with your top-secret documents?
Categories: Eco activism