Make Extra Shredded Paper Work for You
Try as I might, I just cannot get credit card companies to stop sending us those stupid offers in the mail. What a waste of paper! Yes, I’ve signed up for the do not mail registry, but there appears to be a loophole I’m not able to break through.
So I keep a shredder handy in my home office to handle all the junk mail and other confidential things we want to get rid of. That means that we have quite a bit of shredded paper I need to find a use for.
As part of our effort to reduce and eliminate our garbage service, I’ve come up with 14 uses for shredded paper. Hopefully, you can make use of some of these in your household too.
Shredded Paper Can:
1. Make Fire Starters with shredded paper and old candles. You’ll need shredded paper (there’s plenty of it where I come from), candle wax or paraffin, an egg cartoon/ muffin tray/ silicone baking mold.
How to do it?
– // Melt some old candles in a pot until the wax turns liquid. You don’t want it to get burned.
– // Fill an egg cartoon or muffin tray or silicone mold with shredded paper
– // Pour the liquid wax all over the shredded paper; don’t overdo it (you’ll need just as much wax to make the paper bits stick together)
– // Let the wax completely cool, and remove the wax from the tray/mold (if you are using an egg carton just separate each shredded paper fire starter with scissors
– // Store your freshly baked fire starters in a Ziploc bag or an airtight container to prevent moisture from rendering them useless.
For how long will a shredded paper fire starter burn? It depends on the size of the fire starter. Such fire starters should burn with a constant flame for around 10 to 15 minutes, which is enough for you to light up that grill, chimney, or camp fire.
If you are using these firestarters for BBQ, steer clear of scented candle wax as you don’t want any toxic fumes anywhere near your food.
Check out my other post for more DIY fire starter ideas on the cheap: Five Frugal Ways to Make DIY Fire Starters!
2. Use it as wood stove kindling. We add shredded paper with the base of the fire and hold it in place by using a fourth of an egg carton or stuffed in a paper envelope. Wood kindling is placed over it and lit.
3. Make your own paper – video tutorial – Best done outside in warm weather! This is a fun and useful skill to have. It takes quite a bit of shredded paper, though, so start saving now.
4. Create a Paper-Mache bowl or basket. Mix it with glue and water to make a dough and form it into something you can use: a basket, lamp etc. There are even people who make jewelry out of it.
See this Instructables post to make your own glue with the traditional ingredients of all-purpose white flour, sugar, water, and alum powder. The shortness of the shredded paper fibers makes it perfect for this use.
To provide strength in your product put the pieces of paper in the same direction or make a massive product by letting the Paper-Mache dry and layer it with another coat of Paper-Mache.
I couldn’t find an eco-friendly way to seal the bowl, so you might want to store some wax paper to line the bowl if you are going to use it for food.
5. Recycle it into the compost bin. Equal parts of grass clippings and shredded paper will work all by themselves, or add it in place of other carbon materials in the garden bin. Be sure it gets mixed in thoroughly; once wet, it has a tendency to mat together and suppress oxygen in the pile.
If you have tons of shredded paper, you could take it up a notch and turn it into homemade compost, or natural plant food.
You will need:
– // Shredded paper (as much as you can get: bills, junk mail, brown paper grocery bags, letters from state and local government, weekly sales flyers, you name it – they all belong to the compost bin)
– // A compost tumbler (it is rather pricey but you can make one yourself – look for tutorials online)
– // Organic materials such as kitchen scraps (egg shells will break down slower but they are rich in calcium and other minerals your plants love), grass clippings, other garden waste, animal poop including chicken ,sheep, cow, horse manure, sawdust, soiled shavings from pet rabbits or Guinea pigs, and so on
– // Patience (and lots of it).
Fill the compost tumbler with two thirds shredded paper and one third organic matter. Keep your eye on the tumbler and turn it every single day. This way you will aerate the compost and help all the good microbial life to break it down faster.
Plus, you’ll be getting rid of any extra liquids and prevent fungal infestations and rot. You’ll notice that as weeks go by, the compost changes texture and color. You may also notice bugs feasting on your tumbler’s contents.
In around 4 weeks to 6 months’ time, your homemade compost should be ready. Breakdown time largely depends on the materials used and the climate.
During warmer months, the composting process is faster than it is in cooler months. To speed up the process make sure that the organic materials are cut in very small bits and that the temperature inside the tumbler gets over 60 degrees almost every single day.
Do not toss these in your compost tumbler:
– // Plastic – Make sure that the shredded paper does not have any plastic in it such as plastic inserts, plastic coatings, or plastic/ clear windows (on envelopes). It is the unfortunate case with some types of gift wrap paper, glossy packaging, and laminated book covers.
– // Toxic chemicals as you don’t want those in your food: Don’t use glossy, plasticky paper such as newspaper inserts and glossy magazine covers and pages.
– // Meat – Meat and high temperatures will become a welcoming environment for dangerous pathogens.
– // Dog, cat, or human manure: the same problem as with meat. Just DON’T add these to your compost pile. EVER. (In some parts of the world human manure is turned into healthy compost also known as “humanure” but the process is a lot different than what we’ve shown you here – you can check a dedicated book on the topic).
6. Use as flooring and/or for the laying boxes in the chicken coop. It is cheaper than hay and it seems to last twice as long as the hay does. It is a great addition to the compost bin/tumbler when you clean the nests out!!
Use the shredded paper under the perches as well. You will be able to clean the chicken house faster this way. Plus, there’s the extra bonus of zero smells. Just keep that compost tumbler close to the chicken house.
7. As the base for a no-dig veggie garden bed in place of newspaper or cardboard. Just give it a thorough wetting and it won’t go anywhere!
8. Use it at the bottom of your bean or pea trench to retain water. It retains moisture and keeps beans happy.
9. To protect newly sown seeds in the garden, cover them with a small amount of paper from the shredder.
10. Use as a mulch in the strawberry patch to keep them off the ground and as mulch where ever else it is needed. I’d say that the best use of the paper is as mulch under your shrubs and trees. Spread it out, wet it down and cover it with a bit of pine straw.
The resulting Paper Mache will prevent weeds better than most other mulches and will let water and fertilizer through just fine. It will also retain water like a champ, which is a triple win for your yard and vegetable garden.
11. Scare off those pesky birds, stuff a scarecrow.
12. Make paper logs with this handy tool to save on fuel for home heating during the winter months.
-// Shredded paper
– // Paper log maker.
The process is straightforward. Just soak the shredded paper and add it to the paper log maker. Press it down to get much of the water out and you’ve got yourself a shredded paper fire log. Let the log air dry completely and store them away from moisture.
Watch CrazyRussianHacker doing it.
13. Use as a bedding base for your worm compost bin. You can read my related post on worm composting – the Do’s and Dont’s: 5 Things to Avoid When You Start Worm Composting
14. Make seed starter cups out of shredded paper pulp. I haven’t tried this one yet, but what a fantastic idea! I imagine that they work just like toilet paper roll seed starters and would prove to be sturdier. Find a tutorial here.
15. Cat litter alternative. Cat litter is quite expensive in the long run. It also creates tons of waste and may contain toxic chemicals that harm the environment. Shredded paper is basically free and toxin-free.
The only downside is that your kitty may refuse to use it. Have patience and train your favorite fur ball to accept the cat litter substitute. Start with a base layer of regular litter and a top layer of shredded paper until your cat gets accustomed with the paper.
Bubble wrap substitute. Pack items that you plan on sending through mail in shredded paper instead of bubble wrap or Styrofoam. It is cheaper and less likely to linger in a landfill for over 100 years. You could also use DIY shredded paper cushions for delicate items when shipping them. Just fill sandwich bags with shredded paper and secure them with twist ties.
Forget about the confetti. Replace confetti with shredded colored paper. It is more eco-friendly and easier on your budget.
Don’t Just Use Any Kind of Paper
There are a few kinds of paper that you want to keep OUT of your garden because they do not break down easily, or may contain harmful chemicals. Be sure to keep the colored glossy paper, and that pesky envelope plastic, out of your shredding paper. It can be included in the things you will burn but not in your garden or compost.
After doing my research, I’ve decided that shredded paper should be considered an asset, rather than a liability on the homestead. There are so many eco-friendly uses for it, that it seems a shame to send it to the recycling center instead of benefiting my home.
Did you like any of our DIY shredded paper uses? Have you tried any of these?
What Clever Things Do You Do With Your Shredded Paper?
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Deborah Davis says
I am always looking for ways to repurpose or reuse items so I love these clever uses for shredded paper. I like to use shredded paper as packing material for shipping handmade items from my Etsy shop. I also enjoyed reading many of your other healthy and helpful blog posts. I’m just pinning, tweeting and sharing.
Thank you so much for sharing these valuable green ideas with us at the Healthy, Happy, Green & Natural Blog Hop. I sincerely appreciate it!
All the best, Deb
Darice Davis says
I use local market circulars distributed weekly to keep trash cans from smelling and drawing the local varmint population for food.
I wrap up scraps, disposed leftovers etc. and use plastic bags from other foods to contain the wrapped trash. Most of my neighbors are from other countries and do not police their trash, but at least my effort is a start.
Tins from coffee can be used for holiday gifts (cookies, popcorn, candies). They are great forms for spray painting, paper mache, and other decorations.
Great ideas Darice! I compost as many kitchen scraps as I can too.
This is a great list! I like the garden ideas… especially the retaining water bit. (Not that I’m *admitting* to forgetting to water my plants or anything… 😉 )
Mostly we use it for kitty litter. I buy the pine bits/sawdusty kind of litter, but it’s pretty pricey, so I mix it about half-and-half with shredded paper and it works really well! 🙂
~ Christine @ Once Upon a Time in a Bed of Wildflowers
I know this post is 3 years old, but anyone else who likes to use the pine litter may find this helpful. I use Equine Pine….pine pellet litter for horses. It absorbs much better than the stuff labeled for cats (it’s made for horse mess…has to be better lol) and it’s $7 for a 40lb bag at Tractor Supply and other co-ops around here (some places lower the price if you buy it in bulk as well, though unless you have a ton of cats you probably wouldn’t do that). It works better and is much cheaper than the good cat litters.
On all credit card offers (usually back bottom) are directions to opt out of offers. It works – stops all those credit offers. Not all the junk mail though.
I use it for bedding for my guinea pig.
Jim Murray says
Thank you for the tips on the use of shredded paper. Many years ago I created a brand, The Original Jimmy packaging using shredded paper inside various sizes of recycled bags.
If you have an older shredder that makes the strips, shred some colored paper and use for Easter basket filler, or any gift basket filler.
Charles gray says
blah blah says
We use it as cat box litter.
* Don’t have to buy or lug around heavy kitty litter
* Junk mail & other shreddable’s are easy to come by
* Change it every other day (otherwise the pee mats it down too much, and the poo starts to pile up)
For the cost of a $30 paper shredder, we’ve kept our cat comfortably stocked in shredded kitty paper for 3 years now. We live in an apartment, and while we get a bit of junk mail it’s often not enough. But, they put a recycle trash can right next to the mailboxes for others to dump their unwanted mail into. I just grab huge handfuls from it to supplement our stockpile.
The only problem with shredded paper for kitty litter is that it can cling to the cat’s fur when they go in and out of the bin. We had to use a high-wall bin (like 1.5′ high plastic tub) as a cat box, so the cat doesn’t toss the shred everywhere when scratching / covering. Some of the shreds still comes out when he jumps out. But, I vacuum every other day (on cat box changing days), so it’s all good.
The best day is when they deliver new phone books. Most people don’t want them, so there’s just huge stacks of phone books sitting by the mailboxes. I take my hand truck down to the mailboxes and cart home massive loads of these things. Phone book paper makes great cat box paper, as it’s soft, plus doesn’t cling to the cat fur as much. Hardly makes a mess.
If you live in a residential neighborhood, you can just rummage through peoples’ recycle bins, or ask a neighbor to donate their used newspaper and junk mail to you… take a collection from friends and neighbors.
The used cat box paper is loaded with poo and pee, and would be great to toss into a mulching pile. But, since we live in an apartment, I can’t do that. I hate throwing it out, but I figure it’s better throwing out some composting material to the landfill then kitty litter / gravel.
John Ridder says
here is a concept I need comments on… I have lots of leftover latex paint in lots of colors.. could it be used as a binder with shredded paper ( my old tax returns shredded fine) to create?
I have a hard time composting my junk mail, but I do use it for these:
+ Sowing seeds that moisture such as runner beans
+ Stuffing a scarecrow or guy-fawks guy
+ Make fire-starting logs
+ For packing things away for storage
+ Making kitty litter
+ Packing boxes when I post things
I had a bunch of other ideas that I put in an article, but those are probably my best ideas.