Paper shredding helps the environment and us

Shredding paper can be beneficial in many ways. From reducing harmful emissions to protecting yourself from ID theft, here are a few reasons to shred your paper.

Paper shredding helps the environment

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) says Americans consume on average more than 700 pounds of paper each year per person. The agency says paper products make up more than 27 percent of all municipal waste, making discarded paper and paper pulp the third largest polluter of our air, soil and water.

Recycling shredded paper helps the environment in two ways: by reducing harmful emissions and by easing the need for more landfill space.

Rotting paper emits methane gas, the fumes from which are 25 times more toxic to the environment than carbon dioxide gas. Because recycling reduces the amount of paper that goes to the landfill to decompose, it also reduces the amount of harmful emissions being released into the environment. Recycling also reduces the need to open new landfills, and recycling paper into new products uses fewer resources, energy and water than making new paper from trees.

A single ton of recycled paper saves 7,000 gallons of water and the equivalent of six months’ worth of electricity for the average U.S. home. One ton of recycled paper also saves approximately 17 trees, and every tree saved lowers carbon dioxide emissions.

According to the EPA, each ton of recycled paper fiber saves:

  • 17 trees
  • 3.3 cubic yards of landfill space
  • 360 gallons of water
  • 60 pounds of pollutants
  • 10,400 kilowatts of electricity
  • The energy equivalent of 165 gallons of gasoline

Recycled paper can create new products

The main point of recycling is to create new paper products from old recycled paper. The paper industry recycles and recovers close to 70 percent of the paper consumed by Americans every year.

According to the EPA, shredded office paper is used by mills to make consumer products such as paper towels, tissue and toilet tissue. In 2021 almost half of recycled paper went on to make cardboard boxes, according to the American Forest and Paper Association.

In addition, mixed-grade recycled paper can be used as secondary fiber in the production of new paper and raw material in non-paper products such as gypsum wallboard, chipboard, roofing felt, cellulose insulation and molded pulp products like egg cartons.

Paper shredding helps protect against ID theft

Identity theft is a large and growing problem. Consumers looking to protect themselves cannot assume their financial institutions, credit card companies and online retailers can provide complete protection. In 2021 alone, residents of Oregon reported 8,016 incidents of identity theft, or 190 incidents for every 100,000 residents

The FTC reports that Americans receive more than 4 million tons of junk mail each year. Much of this mail includes your personal information, making rummaging around in your trash a profitable way to steal large amounts of that information. Even something as simple as an empty envelope with your bank’s return address can be valuable to a thief.

The trash you throw out can contain information like your address, telephone number, email address, credit union or bank information, Social Security number–even what your signature looks like. Armed with that information, thieves can open new accounts, take out loans, open credit cards in your name and more. In short, they can throw your life into chaos.

The cure for dumpster diving ID theft is to thoroughly shred everything that contains your personal information. Security experts recommend cross-cut or micro-cut shredders over the more common type of home-based shredder which simply cuts papers into strips. Many households either don’t have the time to shred all of that, or they don’t own the right kind of shredder. Oregon State Credit Union shred events bring large-capacity, high-security shredders to communities saving residents time and providing peace of mind.

Learn more about Shred Day

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