Paper Shredders

The following is a guest post entry into our Survival & Preparedness Writing Contest.


Paper Shredders b“The Coach” 

I have a lot of personal information such as credit card statements, bank statements, sales receipts, bills of sale, paper checks, personal information, computer printouts, etc. on paper. I had been throwing away all of this paperwork in the trash. I realized that anyone could read these items without any trouble at all. I knew I had to do something to protect my personal information.

          If someone steals your identity, it can cost you thousands of dollars, a bad credit rating and years to put your life back together.

          I spoke to a police officer that I knew about this matter. I asked him about putting all of my paper information in the trash can. I told him that I then placed the garbage can to the curb in front of my home for it to be picked up. The police officer told me that once anyone places anything into the trash and puts that trash out to the street for pick up, everything that is waiting for pickup can no long be claimed as being your personal property. In addition, you no longer have an expectation of privacy over anything that is placed to the curb for garbage pickup. The police can take everything you have put to the street for pick up without a warrant and go through it. Anything they find can be used against you or used to build a case against you. Also, private investigators, a neighbor or a stranger can take your garbage and recover anything from it that they want.

          My police officer friend advised me to purchase a good paper shredder and shred ever piece of paper before placing it in the trash.

          I went to my local national chain office supply store and inquired about paper shredders. I learned there were many different brand names and types of paper shredders in many different price ranges.       I found two of the most important things to consider when purchasing a paper shredder are the size of the shredded pieces of paper and how many sheets of paper can be shredded at one time without jamming the shredder.

There are basically three types of paper shredders, strip-cut, confetti-cut, and micro-cut.

The strip cut paper shredders are better than doing nothing. They typically shred a regular piece of paper into approximately 45 long horizontal strips. These types of strip cut paper shredders are usually the cheapest of the paper shredders and not very well constructed. There are computer programs that can be used to reconstruct a document that has been shredded by a strip cut paper shredder. However, it only took me a few minutes to start to reconstruct some of these paper shards to be able to read part of the document. (See photo # 1)


Confetti cut paper shredders are much better. These shredders are also called cross-cut paper shredders. They slice papers horizontally and vertically. This type of paper shredder is MUCH better than the strip cut paper shredders. The confetti cut type of paper shredder cuts a normal size sheet of paper in approximately 350 pieces. This makes it a lot harder for anyone to put a document back together. They cost a little more than the strip cut paper shredders but are well worth it.

Micro-cut paper shredders are the best type of paper shredders to use. The micro-cut paper shredder is the type that many federal government agencies use. They are also usually the most expensive of all of the paper shredders. This type of paper shredder shreds a normal piece of paper into approximately 2,500 small pieces. (See photo # 2) To my knowledge, it is almost impossible to put a document back together if this type of paper shredder is used to shred a document. This is the type of paper shredder that I decided to purchase.


Shred ALL of your paper work, including trash mail before you throw it away. The increased volume makes more paper shreds and thus makes it more difficult for someone to put the shreds back together.

Do not place shredded paper in any type of a bag for disposal. Doing so makes it easier to put the shredded paper back together. Instead, place the loose shredded paper in the very bottom of the garbage can. This way when the garbage man or anyone attempting to recover the shredded paper turns the garbage can upside down to empty it, the paper shreds will dump out further mixing them up. This makes the shredded paper even harder to put back together.

You empty the paper shredders by one of two ways. One type of shredder holds the paper shreds in a pull out drawer/hopper that collects the shreds and retains them for disposal. Another type of paper shredder retains the shredded paper in a waste paper-basket. You lift the paper shredder apparatus off the basket and empty the basket.

Wait until the paper shredder hopper, the basket or pull out bin, is almost full of shredded paper before emptying it into trash can. The more paper shreds in the trash can, the harder it is to place the shreds back together. It is unknown to me if there is a computer program that can be used to put back together confetti-cut or micro-cut paper shreds. Even if there is such a computer program, it would be a lot harder and more time consuming to accomplish.

No piece of paper leaves my house before it is shredded, except for the newspaper. Even advertisements and junk mail gets shredded. The more paper shreds that are placed into your garbage can at one time, the harder it is to attempt to put any particular page back together.

If you are really concerned about your confidential paperwork information being compromised, after shredding your documents, burn the shredded paper, if your local laws allow, then burry the ashes.

Also, some paper shredders have an additional feature that you can use to shred credit cards, DVDs and CDs. The micro cut paper shredder that I purchased has these features.

There is usually a safety feature built into the mechanics of most paper shredders. When you remove the hopper to empty the paper shreds, a deactivation switch automatically stops the shredder from working.

Some paper shredders have an automatic cut off switch built in that activates when the paper hopper becomes full.

Never attempt to clear jammed paper, in any paper shredder, unless you unplug the electric cord first. The blades of a paper shredder can shred you fingers just as easy as it can shred paper.

Extreme caution should be used when having and/or using a paper shredder in a home with children and/or animals.


Quote of the Day!

“Genuine wisdom is knowing what you are talking about but deciding to keep your mouth shut!”


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  1. I have to use a paper shredder in my home office. I also use it to shred my personal papers. I will tell you, the $20 crosscuts I’ve bought don’t last long. If you only need it for personal use, it may be okay. I need to invest in a more expensive model that will last longer. Periodically oiling it by very lightly dampening a couple sheets with vegetable oil helps some. And as Coach says, don’t try to unjam without unplugging! I also periodically use ‘canned air’ to clean the dust. Coach, very sage advice to not bag the scraps, something I hadn’t thought of.

  2. I’ve been taking the paper shredder results and using it as one of the inputs into my worm bins. This way its composted with other food scraps into a useful organic fertilizer. I’ve also just picked up a paper brick press, which lets you create mini paper logs to burn using paper (and other materials). Sort of a wet mix of paper get squished into brick, dried, then saved to use later. I intend to burn these in a small rocket stove.

    I avoid shredding plastics with my paper for worm bin/bricks to avoid contamination.

    Certainly makes it hard for anyone to put the shredding back together after composting or burning.

  3. I have a moderately expensive strip cut shredder and was intending to do as you do but found it generated lots of fine dust particles that made their way into the air and my lungs, even outside, a pain to do, it was unrealistic for me. My next goal is to buy an old galvanized barrel and burn everything. This will also be a pain. My identity was stolen 6 months ago, bank credit card company picked it up and canceled as guy was trying to buy $7k worth of computers in Canada. Amazingly, they let him go, citing international hassles. @##@$ I went through a lot of paperwork, still have credit monitored. No one knows how it happened, possibly one of the numerous bank hackings. They knew lots of my info.

  4. Like Zen ~ there are many uses for shredded paper ~ major one is making the paper bricks for your woodstove or fire place (or emergency fire starters) I didn’t think about a worm bin …that’d be mighty nice for the garden ..worm poo dirt 🙂 Thanks John for the reminder that we need to shred everything ..never know what could be used against ya. Note one doesn’t need a fancy paper brick maker, you can take a pvc pipe, saw in half, now put your water soaked shredded paper packed in each side, rubber band together and let dry …instant paper logs. 🙂

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