Many municipal recycling programs do not allow shredded paper because it is difficult to sort and results in low-quality recycled paper. In areas where this is the case, other options include throwing the paper in the garbage, composting it and using it as packing material.
The quality of recycled paper depends upon the length of the wood pulp fibers in the original papers, with longer fibers resulting in better quality paper. Shredding paper results in very short fibers, damaging the value of the paper. Further, shredded paper can fall through the cracks and clog single-stream sorting machines, resulting in a maintenance headache.
In addition to providing an eco-friendly way to dispose of paper, compost can also be more secure than disposing of paper in the garbage, as it is harder to reconstruct shredded documents that have spent time in damp and dirty biological waste. Other options for safely disposing of paper shreds include mixing it in with kitchen garbage and burning it in the fireplace, either as a fire starter or just to dispose of it. Shredded paper can also find use as a way to safely package gifts and other shipped items, and it can work as pet bedding or part of a cat litter box. People who use shredded paper for pet bedding or cat litter should take care not to include paper printed with toxic inks.