Alternatives to the Paper Shredder

Recently I viewed an article by fellow writer Jan Corn entitled “Cheap Paper Shredder Alternatives.” In her article she discusses several commercial or home use shredders found online through such sights as eBay and These shredders are economically and environmentally friendly, some even cheap and easy to use.

Since our paper suppliers and publishers began using environmentally friendly inks and dyes in the production of those printed materials, I’ve looked at several alternative methods which allow me to use this waste around my yard and garden. As she mention at one time she would burn those documents which had personal information and as she, so did I. For a long time I would hold on to those documents until winter would come in and burn them in the fire place. But I live in Houston and it doesn’t get cold enough to use a fire place. So I use the next alternative and that is to use them in starting the barbeque pit when we grill and in Texas that happens at least twice a week.

Since barbequing has gotten so costly with meat prices being out of pocket, I’ve chosen another alternative and that is by placing the paper in my garden. There are two methods by which I dispose of the papers. The first is by either spreading the papers over the yard prior to mowing. Every third cutting I will bag the clippings from the yard and place them in the mulch pile with all the rest of the scraps gathered from yard; and putting the paper out prior to cutting, it gets cut up finer than what the paper shredder ever could. Over time the paper breaks down with the rest of the organic materials making some of the finest compost any gardener could ask. Another method I use during the non- growing season is to spread those papers along with newspapers in a layer about 1 inch thick over the area covered by my garden and flower beds. Since most of the plants are dormant during the winter months this makes an exceptional ground cover. I then soak the paper down heavily seeing moisture is a key component in decomposition. Next I spread a layer of the materials that have broken down to about a ½” in size from the mulch pile along with the shredded leaves gathered from the lawn over the beds. Seeing I live in the suburbs I have several friends and neighbors that raise a few head of cattle, or have a horse or two, some even raise chickens or rabbits during season. So there’s plenty of manure to be found and I’ll get a truckload or two of this material and spread it over the bed and the I’ll spread another layer of pine straw or hay to absorb the smell of the manure and then in the spring I’ll till the bed under and I’m ready for planting. This gives me some of the richest soil around.

Another means I use to dispose of those papers is with the chipper/shredder that I have for the garden. Seeing I use this device to shred up leaves and other lawn debris why not shred those unwanted papers. Occasionally if the isn’t a large amount to be disposed of I will that the papers and soak them in lemon water. The acid in the lemon extract helps break down the fibers. I then take the pulp and place it in a blender on emulsify and get the mix o a consistency which is easy to form. Throughout the year I save butter tubs, pudding/fruit cups and sour cream and cottage cheese containers which I use as molds to make planter pots for my starter plants. These can be planted in the ground when you begin your garden beds and the pots will decompose where the pots that you would get from your local garden center are made from plastic. I’ve found this a far better alternative than to just shred those papers and put them to the curb with the rest of the trash.

Even though certain materials in Texas are recycled, a lot of the waste that’s gathered for recycled content in post consumer goods is bailed and placed in warehouses till buyers can be found. And seeing the biggest manufacturers of these post consumer goods are overseas, about 65% of these materials still end up in our landfill sites. So why not use this valuable waste in a manner from which it came?

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