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.
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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