Don’t just protect your identity, improve it

I was threatened with identity theft, so I bought a paper shredder. Then someone told me that shredded paper isn’t recyclable. Am I being wasteful?

Wow. In the immediate aftermath of your, um, “identity crisis,” you’re still concerned about the environment. I could kiss you—if I wasn’t already busy making out with trees. And maybe because you’re such a good person, fate has rewarded you: The Sacramento Recycling and Transfer Station now accepts shredded paper.

You’re correct to assume that loose shreds of paper get lost in recycling bins, making work difficult for the station employees who sort recyclables by hand into huge bales of plastic, paper, aluminum and so on. That’s why you’re required to tie those loose scraps up in a clear or semi-clear plastic bag.

Now, don’t think that shredding is a perfect system. When station employees see a transparent bag of paper scraps moving down the conveyor belt, they’ll open it and dump the paper into a giant bin full of what the station calls “super mix.” It’s a big mess of every paper product that’s not refined enough to be recycled into pure paper bales. Eventually, that mix will be recycled into low-grade paper. As recycling general manager Kurt Standen said, there’s “more contaminant” in super mix because it’s a blend of the many materials that people shred. Plus, there’s a risk of “run-off” if some of the loose scraps inevitably escape the bin or the bale, and flutter away as litter.

Standen acknowledged that alternative methods for safely discarding secure documents are scarce. Burning secure documents can actually cause environmental problems.

The best solution to mankind’s collective “identity crisis” is to be mindful of what you shred. Don’t hesitate to shred documents if doing so will protect you from identity theft. But if you can avoid shredding a piece of paper and instead recycle it whole, do so.

The best solution to your future queries about recycling in Sacramento can be found at In my circle, it’s the Internet bookmark of choice—so hot right now.