Going green: City no longer wants your shredded paper

By Jeanette Brizendine, Recycling manager, City of Federal Way

Recyclers, you’d better sit down. This could be a shock. The City of Federal Way no longer wants shredded paper in your curbside recycling carts.

What? How much more “recycle-y” can you get than conveniently minced wisps of paper? It looks oh-so-ready to go right back into the paper-making machine. The problem is that shredding makes for extremely short paper fibers, which are often too small to turn into new paper.

Another hitch is that recyclables in Federal Way are all collected together, then sorted based on differences in shape, weight and metallic content. Because shredded paper bits are so fine and small, they simply won’t separate out along with paper or cardboard. Instead, most shredded paper ends up sticking to and contaminating glass. It’s like sorting a few feathers from a ton of bricks — not an easy task.

What to do with shredded paper

So you’ve heard the shredded “don’t” list. Here are some things you still can do:

• Put shredded paper in your yard debris cart or your own compost bin. Shredded paper composts nicely.

• Take confidential documents you normally would shred yourself to a public shred event or to a year-round shredding facility.

• Shredding event calendar:

• Year-round shredder: Tacoma Recycling, 2318 S. Tacoma Way, (253) 474-9559. The service is free if under 10 pounds, and you may watch the shredding process if you’re interested.

• Some shredded paper can be used for animal bedding or packing materials.

• Commercial shredding companies or businesses that create large amounts of shredded paper usually have the facilities to keep it separate from their other recyclables, and this is still OK. It still can be recycled into such things as tissue products and egg cartons.

• Remember to keep expired credit cards and compact discs out of your shredder. Instead they should go in the garbage or be taken to a recycler listed on King County’s recycling database:

• Also, you can skirt a lot of shredded paper concerns altogether by going with paperless billing when possible and requesting that your address be removed from unwanted mailing lists.

Jeanette Brizendine is the Recycling Manager for the City of Federal Way. Contact: (253) 835-2771 or or

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