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All About Shredding

Bills, medical information, credit card offers, birthday cards, legal notices. Think of all the information that these contain (especially when combined)! There has even been a case where someone took a torn up credit card application, taped it back together, mailed it in and GOT CREDIT ANYWAY.

Unless it's used tissue paper, diapers, or something else that has no useful personal information on it, you should be shredding the living snot (or lifeless pulp rather) out of it.

The problem with normal shredders

Most regular shredders are no good. Why? Look at this:

The original document
The original document
Torn by hand
Torn by hand
Strip shred
Strip shred

The only real difference between shredding and hand-tearing a paper are the number of pieces. Even with "confetti" or "cross-cut" shredders, the number of pieces produced per paper number only in the hundreds. Now consider this:

This puzzle is 15 feet by 5 feet, 24,000 pieces
This puzzle is 15 feet by 5 feet, 24,000 pieces

People will actually pay money to have a picture sent to them in 24,000 individual pieces so they can toil away days or weeks (or longer) in putting it back together again. Instead take a highly motivated drug addict who's up all night on a meth-high. He's got nothing better to do than put your shredded documents back together and he's going to make money on it.

Assuming I've convinced you, now let's look at the major types of shredders available today:

The types of shredders

A normal shredder
A normal shredder
Cross/confetti cut
Cross/confetti cut
Microcut for the win!
Microcut for the win!

If you're going to buy a shredder (and you should), get a microcut shredder which basically grinds your paper to dust (depending on the model). The rule of thumb is, the smaller the resulting pieces of paper, the better protected you are. So when you buy a shredder, go for the smallest cut size you can find.

Uh... that won't shred
Uh... that won't shred
Oh, and one more tip: If you have kids and leave your shredder unplugged most of the time or if you are just lazy and don't want to bother carefully feeding all your junkmail into the shredder right when you get home, get a box, label it "to shred", and set it next to the trash can. Now you can just toss it in the box and deal with it later.

My son loves "shred day" when we go though the box and shred everything. Just be sure to watch the kids if you plan to involve them. Nothing ruins your shredder faster than feeding it coins. Of course, I was still pretty impressed with how much damage my shredder managed to do to this penny before it exploded into a smokey crater.

Alternatives to shredding

There are some alternatives to shredding, some of which make more sense than others. Use with caution.

Burn it
Burn it
You could always just burn your documents. Using a burn pile or burn barrel probably requires a permit and supervision (not an attractive option if you ask me). If you have a fireplace, you can use that except that burning in the summer will heat up your house. If you just store everything for winter, you have a ready fuel source and might be able to save on wood. Of course, you still have all that ash to deal with.


Feed it to the dog
Feed it to the dog
It's generally not recommended to feed your bills to your dog. You're likely to give him indigestion especially if you feed him too much or papers with lots of ink on it. You could always get more dogs and spread the feeding out among them, but this seems like a rather inelegant solution to the problem.


1 Comment to “All About Shredding”

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I recommend the “burning” method. It’s the only real way to assure that the document is gone for good.

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