Shared from the 5/28/2017 The Providence Journal eEdition


Shredded paper no longer accepted in mixed recycling




Shredded paper (and plastic bags) are wreaking havoc in RI’s Materials Recycling Facility. [COURTESY PHOTO/RIRRC]

Q: Can I recycle shredded paper? — Various Readers

A: Quite a few of you have written in asking about shredded paper, and I’ve been saving up your questions! Today, I can officially announce that shredded paper is no longer accepted in R.I.’s mixed recycling program. Here’s why:

At the launch of new recycling program in 2012, we earnestly wanted to keep shredded paper in it. Many of you were used to shredding at home and recycling those shreds curbside. Turns out that “single-stream” recycling facilities, like ours, contain sorting equipment that does not play nice with shredded paper.

We learned immediately that the old method (securing shreds in a paper bag) wasn’t going to work. The powerful equipment ripped paper bags open, causing shreds to go everywhere. Not wanting to immediately take shredded paper out of the program, we ran some trials, and found that double-bagging shreds in clear plastic bags would be the only possible way to collect it. So, we got the word out (or at least, we tried!)

Fast forward to today: The two most prevalent contaminants in our Materials Recycling Facility are shredded paper and plastic bags. While shreds go everywhere and contaminate other recycling, plastic bags wrap around equipment and shut the facility down. Some folks are double-bagging, but many more are single-bagging, paper bagging, or not bagging at all. We also now know that overly compacted recycling trucks can cause even double-bagged shreds to rip open. Finally, and perhaps the most alarming, we’ve seen a large spike in the amount of other materials coming in bagged.

Our collective experience over the past four years has led to a real need for a crystal-clear message, and here it is: No shredded paper in your mixed recycling, and no plastic bags, bags of plastic bags, or recycling inside of plastic bags — ever.

Now, what to do with your shreds?

First, please know what is and isn’t a sensitive document. Anything with your social security number, bank or credit card numbers, medical records, or forms of ID are sensitive. Items with just your name, address and phone number are not sensitive, and can be recycled whole.

Second, consider letting someone else shred and recycle your documents for you. There are a number of free events throughout the year, and I am pleased to announce that Resource Recovery will be sponsoring four each year. These will take place at Shred RI, 2111 Plainfield Pike, Johnston — not our site, and will run from 8 a.m. to noon on June 17, July 8, Sept. 16, and Nov. 4 in 2017. Bring up to two full recycling bins (not wheeled carts) or boxes/bags of similar size of sensitive, personal (not business) documents per vehicle. You can also find more opportunities at events.

Finally, if you still want to shred at home you have three options: (1) add your shreds to your backyard compost bin if you have one, (2) recycle them via drop-off at Resource Recovery, 65 Shun Pike, Johnston, or (3) dispose of shreds in the trash. Please just keep shredded paper out of your mixed recycling from now on — the rest of your recyclables will thank you!

—Krystal Noiseux is the education and outreach manager at RIRRC. Send your question, including the city or town you’re writing from, to Trash Tutorial, Features Department, The Providence Journal, 75 Fountain St., Providence, RI 02902. Or email features@, and put “Trash Tutorial” in the subject field.

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