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Old 10-13-2013, 10:58 AM
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Cheap & easy alternative to shredding important papers

I have a half-dozen large boxes of old papers that I need to get rid of. These are things that really ought to get shredded: bank statements, canceled checks, pay stubs, utility bills, etc, etc. Most are still in the envelopes they were mailed in, and all are over 5 years old. I could buy a shredder, open each envelope, and run them through, but this would be VERY time-consuming, and that's a bigger bother to me than the $30 I'd spend on a cheap shredder (which would probably overheat before I was done anyway).

Can someone suggest an easier alternative? I tried putting a bunch in the bathtub with hot water, hoping that they'd turn to mush overnight, but this was not nearly as effective as I had hoped. Maybe if I put some bleach into the water it would work better? Or some other material that I could get in a supermarket? (I am quite willing to take the mush and put it in my trash. I do NOT want to flush it away and screw up the plumbing. I just want some way that I can put these papers in the trash and not worry that someone will find my Soc Sec number or such.)

Perhaps this question belongs in another area because I'm looking for advice. But I don't care so much about the BEST way to do this. I just want suggestions for ANY way to do this.

advTHANKSance
Old 10-13-2013, 11:05 AM
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Have an Office Depot nearby? They do shredding. Might be worthwhile to give them what they want and be done with it. When my Mom was moving she had three suitcases full of papers she would not let us throw away without shredding. Burned up one shredder and damaged another.
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Old 10-13-2013, 11:05 AM
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It isn't necessarily that cheap, but you can rent heavy-duty shredders or hire people with what amounts to a shredder garbage truck. It is a pretty standard service for businesses.
Old 10-13-2013, 11:06 AM
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Call your bank. Sometimes they offer free shredding days where you can bring your documents down and they'll shred it for you.
Old 10-13-2013, 11:07 AM
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Do you not have a fireplace or fire pit in your back yard? Burning is cheap and easy.

Otherwise you can take it to a company that destroys this kind of material for a relatively small amount of money...
Old 10-13-2013, 11:10 AM
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Fire.
Old 10-13-2013, 11:25 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Keeve View Post
Perhaps this question belongs in another area because I'm looking for advice. But I don't care so much about the BEST way to do this. I just want suggestions for ANY way to do this.
Advice and suggestions belong in IMHO.

Moving thread from General Questions to In My Humble Opinion.
Old 10-13-2013, 11:31 AM
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I don't know if this is helpful. It seems like piling the papers into a publicly accessible dumpster is a bit of a security risk on the front end, though once it gets into the pile for incineration it would be safe.

http://youtube.com/watch?v=7_ywarec-vg

But the video does bring up a good point. You might want to check with your local dump to see if they have some cheap facilities for handling things like this.
Old 10-13-2013, 11:52 AM
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do not burn in your fireplace. burning paper floats and it could start a chimney fire. if you burn outdoors then follow regulations because you can cause fires. cities may not allow outdoor burning. in the country you can burn when the fire risk is low and use a burn barrel (only 1/2" openings all around).

some government or other paper recycling may have days when a monster shredder can do paper by the bushel.
Old 10-13-2013, 11:53 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GaryM View Post
Have an Office Depot nearby? They do shredding. Might be worthwhile to give them what they want and be done with it. When my Mom was moving she had three suitcases full of papers she would not let us throw away without shredding. Burned up one shredder and damaged another.
I called Staples to ask about their shredding service because I am in the same situation as the OP.

They told me they contract out to a third-party and they will hold my documents until they have enough to call the company to come out, and then they'll be shredded. I just think of their back room filled with people's documents just sitting there in boxes, and so I decided not to go there. I don't know if Home Depot is the same, so you might want to call first.

So I am still sitting with all this paper and hoping for a solution. Our bank has shred days around tax time, so I guess I will wait until April.
Old 10-13-2013, 12:09 PM
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Originally Posted by Pai325 View Post
I called Staples to ask about their shredding service because I am in the same situation as the OP.

They told me they contract out to a third-party and they will hold my documents until they have enough to call the company to come out, and then they'll be shredded. I just think of their back room filled with people's documents just sitting there in boxes, and so I decided not to go there. I don't know if Home Depot is the same, so you might want to call first.

So I am still sitting with all this paper and hoping for a solution. Our bank has shred days around tax time, so I guess I will wait until April.
Usually if an outside service is doing it the documents go into a locked bin so I wouldn't worry about it. I'm sure they will show you the bin. Remember, they have some responsibility and incentive to make sure that the documents are secure until shredded. At my nearby Staples the cost is $.79/lb. and paper is heavy so it's not necessarily cheap.

If you burn outside you are going to have to feed the paper to the fire or stir the fire a lot. The attention you have to give the fire is probably about the same as the time it takes to shred it. At least the shred can be recycled. Paper is a good insulator so a tightly stacked pile of paper probably won't burn all the way through.

Don't even consider a $30 shredder. It will fail.
Old 10-13-2013, 02:24 PM
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What's wrong with the idea in the OP? Put it in the bathtub with water and bleach, let it soak overnight, and dumb in the trash the next day. If you can't burn because you live in a city, you are worried about leaving it with Staples or Home Depot, etc etc then go with with your original plan. Seems like the easiest way to me.
Old 10-13-2013, 02:48 PM
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Our local assisted-employment place (they hire people with mental disabilities) shreds paper for 14 cents a pound. Maybe you have something like that near you.
Old 10-13-2013, 02:52 PM
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Originally Posted by cletus View Post
What's wrong with the idea in the OP? Put it in the bathtub with water and bleach, let it soak overnight, and dumb in the trash the next day. If you can't burn because you live in a city, you are worried about leaving it with Staples or Home Depot, etc etc then go with with your original plan. Seems like the easiest way to me.
I was hoping some might already have tried it, and be able to offer ideas on how much bleach to use, or if some other chemical might be better. 79 cents per pound is way too expensive; with 6 filing-size boxes, I probably have about 100-200 pounds. I guess I'll have to experiment.
Old 10-13-2013, 02:58 PM
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for example, is there some kind of cheap and available acid that might work?
Old 10-13-2013, 06:38 PM
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Originally Posted by Scarlett67 View Post
Our local assisted-employment place (they hire people with mental disabilities) shreds paper for 14 cents a pound. Maybe you have something like that near you.
That's brilliant!

Is there any connection to a nationwide organization that might be doing this in a lot of chapters? If you can steer me in a direction? I would like to pursue it. Like the OP, I have a lot of paper that needs shredding. $.14/lb is fine with me.
Old 10-13-2013, 06:59 PM
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I don't think there is anything easier than shredding. I also think you're overestimating how difficult shredding it. You don't need to take the documents out of their envelopes to shred them, you can just run the whole thing through the shredder. You only need to take things out of the envelopes if it's too many pages/too thick to run through the shredder at once.

Last edited by Lamia; 10-13-2013 at 06:59 PM.
Old 10-13-2013, 07:28 PM
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No need for acid. Just a big garbage pail or barrel, water, and bleach if you want. The water alone will do the job in a few days. Go out and mash it around with a stick. You'll have a big barrel full of pulp.

Leave it in the sunlight to dry. You'll have a big barrel full of dry pulp.

Take that to the dump (or, y'know, just put it out with your regular trash, maybe a little at a time. Or take it, a gallon at a time, to a public trash can, at a park or shopping center.

I paid the ten cents per pound to have it professionally shredded.
Old 10-13-2013, 07:47 PM
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About two hours ago, I filled the basement sink (next to the washing machine) with hot water and a quart of bleach. While it was filling, I added a handful of envelopes at a time. It took only fifteen minutes for an entire "bankers box" of mail, and the paper was very evenly distributed. Two hours later, every single piece is thoroughly wet and easy to tear, even many sheets at once. But they're not mushy and disintegrating as I hoped, rather it is still very easy to peel each page apart from the next one. I'll see how they are 12 hours from now, in the morning. If I'm not satisfied, I'll probably go with Trinopus's garbage pail idea - that way I can let it sit for several days and still be able to use my clothes washer.

Lamia - I agree that shredding is easy, but for the amount of stuff that I have, it is far too time-consuming. I did have my own shredder a few years back, and it did 10 pages at a time, no need to open the envelopes. But I'm talking literally hundreds - probably thousands - of envelopes. And don't forget to allow time to empty the bucket, and time for jams and odd paper sizes and other annoyances. It adds up to many many long hours. Absolutely no way I'll do that again. I'd rather take my chances with the identity thieves.
Old 10-13-2013, 08:01 PM
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Originally Posted by Trinopus View Post
I paid the ten cents per pound to have it professionally shredded.
How can I find a service like that? I googled "paper shredding service", and found a LOT of services that seem pretty conveniently located, and NONE of the eight that I looked at gave any information about their prices.
Old 10-13-2013, 08:28 PM
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Oops! I may have misquoted the price. The only place I found it mentioned, Office Depot charges 99 cents per pound. I had misremembered it as ten cents. It's after hours on Sunday, so I can't call 'em and ask.

Do you have any friends who have a fireplace or a BBQ?

In any case, the "sump" or "liquidation" process has worked for me in the past, although I only used it for smaller amounts, not the number of big boxes you've spoken of.

I am guessing it would take you a fairly long time to "reduce" the papers, cutting out only the relevant parts that contain private information, but leaving aside the non-detailed "boilerplate" parts. If you could do that, you might reduce the overall volume significantly. (You've doubtless already thought of this... Never mind!)
Old 10-13-2013, 08:34 PM
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Have you checked to see if your county or city offers free shredding events? Where I live the county holds one once a month in different areas of town.
Old 10-13-2013, 08:39 PM
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if you pulp the paper then dump it on a plastic tarp and let it dry. use it for mulch.
Old 10-13-2013, 08:50 PM
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What are the odds that if you put them in a giant trash sack and throw them in the regular garbage a would be criminal is going to find them and use them?


If you were throwing out papers on a regular basis, I'd get the concern. But a one time deal? Nah.
Old 10-13-2013, 09:12 PM
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Have you checked to see if your county or city offers free shredding events? Where I live the county holds one once a month in different areas of town.
This.
Also, one of the local TVstations (NBC affialiate) sponsors one every month or three.
If you can get them in the car, they'll do the rest; just pull into the designated parking lot where they have commercial shredding trucks.
Old 10-13-2013, 10:45 PM
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I just thought of something. I have a field near my house. I also happen to have a DR brush mower. What if I spread the stuff out there and run it over with the mower. It should turn into mulch. Do you think that would work?

Come to think of it, why not rent a wood chipper?

Last edited by R. P. McMurphy; 10-13-2013 at 10:48 PM.
Old 10-13-2013, 10:59 PM
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R. P. McMurphy: wouldn't there be a likelihood of a blizzard of paper scraps, blowing all over the neighborhood? The folks next door might not admire this strategy.

Is the field available for burning? We're coming up to the wet season, at least in the northern hemisphere, and burning permits are more easily obtained. You'd have to be VERY careful to contain the paper somehow, so burning sheets don't rise up on thermal updrafts to menace the eaves of neighbors' houses, but if the bundles of paper were properly weighted down, you could burn 'em outdoors. A nice Hallowe'en bonfire!
Old 10-13-2013, 11:33 PM
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Originally Posted by Trinopus View Post
R. P. McMurphy: wouldn't there be a likelihood of a blizzard of paper scraps, blowing all over the neighborhood? The folks next door might not admire this strategy.

Is the field available for burning? We're coming up to the wet season, at least in the northern hemisphere, and burning permits are more easily obtained. You'd have to be VERY careful to contain the paper somehow, so burning sheets don't rise up on thermal updrafts to menace the eaves of neighbors' houses, but if the bundles of paper were properly weighted down, you could burn 'em outdoors. A nice Hallowe'en bonfire!
Here's what I'm thinking (after pondering this further). Rent or borrow a small wood chipper. Stand near it with a garden hose. Start it up, feet the documents into it and while the shreds come out douse them with a garden hose so the stuff doesn't fly all over. Use the stuff as mulch.

Now I haven't tried this but I might. Tell me what might go wrong.

Back to the original suggestion, I happen to have a field with no neighbors nearby but I realize that isn't a normal situation. But, if you have a bit of lawn space I'm thinking that my suggestion in this post might work. It can't cost too much to rent a small wood chipper for an hour or two. Also, when you spread the shred on your flower beds you might be amazed at how great the blooms look next spring.

You can certainly feed a wood chipper much faster than a shredder and it won't burn out on you.

If I test this I will tell you how well it worked.
Old 10-13-2013, 11:35 PM
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Can you take rubbish directly to your local dump? This might work well - if you dump it directly into the incinerator place or whatever..
Old 10-14-2013, 01:19 AM
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I've never found shredding that big of a deal. Buy a good one and it will last many years. It can take awhile to go through a backlog of paper. Spend one hour a day, for two weeks. You'll be amazed at how many boxes of paper are gone.

My only complaint is the paper dust that accumulates on the floor beside the shredder. Always vacuuming that up after shredding a stack of paper.

I use a shredder that can handle at least 20 sheets at a time. Similar to this one.
http://staples.com/Staples-24-Sh...product_356072

Last edited by aceplace57; 10-14-2013 at 01:23 AM.
Old 10-14-2013, 01:55 AM
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Search for a shredding event in town

Call a shredding company. In my case they drove to my house with a shredder truck and charged like $60 for a large trash bin full, jam packed.
Old 10-14-2013, 03:43 AM
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Originally Posted by aceplace57 View Post
I've never found shredding that big of a deal. Buy a good one and it will last many years. It can take awhile to go through a backlog of paper. Spend one hour a day, for two weeks. You'll be amazed at how many boxes of paper are gone.
Agreed. Maybe it's just me, but this bleach + water trick sounds like a lot more work.
Old 10-14-2013, 04:46 AM
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Originally Posted by cletus View Post
What's wrong with the idea in the OP? Put it in the bathtub with water and bleach, let it soak overnight, and dumb in the trash the next day. If you can't burn because you live in a city, you are worried about leaving it with Staples or Home Depot, etc etc then go with with your original plan. Seems like the easiest way to me.
If the documents are laser printed (some of them are bound to be), bleach won't do a lot to the printing, because the 'ink' is fairly inert - made from plastics and carbon black, or similar.

Besides, dumping it in the bath and soaking it with chemicals just means you then have a huge, wet chemical disposal problem, and more than likely, a significant cleaning job getting the bath usable again.
Old 10-14-2013, 05:59 AM
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Besides, dumping it in the bath and soaking it with chemicals just means you then have a huge, wet chemical disposal problem, and more than likely, a significant cleaning job getting the bath usable again.
That was my first thought too - how are you going to clean all that sticky paper goo off the tub? Wet paper is like glue!

Buy a decent shredder. Sit in the living room with it and a box of paper, put the TV on, and shred during commercials. You aren't likely to overheat it that way, and you'll get through the backlog pretty quickly. Plus then you'll have a shredder handy to prevent a backlog like this from happening again.
Old 10-14-2013, 06:09 AM
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I put all our old papers into a big plastic bin outside, added water to soak, then used a big long 1" wood drill to bore holes through the paper. I left it overnight, then used a paint stirrer attachment on the drill to turn the whole lot into pulp. Drain and dump.
Old 10-14-2013, 06:16 AM
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So far, it sounds like one way or another, you're going to invest a lot of time:
either mixing chemical mush and then disposing of it, or
feeding papers 5 sheets at a time into a noisy shredder at home, or
driving across the city looking for a commercial shredder.

But there's a way you can get rid of the stuff just by sitting easy at home:
Find out what time the garbage truck passes your house. Toss all the papers in your household trash can 15 minutes before the truck comes, and just watch the can to make sure it gets emptied into the truck. Then watch the truck for 5 minutes to make sure it adds more garbage from your neighbors. Once your stuff is buried and mixed in with a couple tons of garbage--and on their way to a landfill with mountains of more garbage-- your old check stubs aren't in any(realistic) danger of being stolen.

(For added security, as you put your papers in garbage bags, top off each bag by pouring real garbage into it before you tie it closed and put it in the collection bin. Old coffee grounds should work well.)

Last edited by chappachula; 10-14-2013 at 06:16 AM.
Old 10-14-2013, 06:44 AM
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This probably isn't a practical solution for the OP, but nearly all of my secure document shredding is done by a pair of gerbils. They will reduce any paper or card to very small flakes in a short time - I then compost the shredded material (which works very well, owing to its fine texture and large surface area)
Old 10-14-2013, 06:44 AM
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In the past I've mulched planting beds with a thick layer of scrap paper, then a layer of grass clippings over that. Now I just put the paper on our autumn brush fire in the horse's pasture.
Old 10-14-2013, 06:58 AM
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I just put the paper .. in the horse's pasture.
mmmmmm......interesting possiblity......
The OP was complaining about spending $30 for a shredder. How much does a horse and pasture cost?
Old 10-14-2013, 07:04 AM
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Originally Posted by Trinopus View Post
No need for acid. Just a big garbage pail or barrel, water, and bleach if you want. The water alone will do the job in a few days. Go out and mash it around with a stick. You'll have a big barrel full of pulp.

Leave it in the sunlight to dry. You'll have a big barrel full of dry pulp.

Take that to the dump (or, y'know, just put it out with your regular trash, maybe a little at a time. Or take it, a gallon at a time, to a public trash can, at a park or shopping center.

I paid the ten cents per pound to have it professionally shredded.
I'll save you a step. The next time your garbage bin gets emptied, fill it a quarter of the way with water and dump some of the papers in there. Stir it every few hours for a day or two until it's pulp and then the next week you can wheel the whole thing, pulp, water and garbage right out to the road to be emptied. It might take a few months to get rid of everything, but big deal. (Except that winter is coming so it'll freeze).

But, another vote for investing in a nice cross cut shredder, and from now on, shredding everything as you don't need it anymore.

Last edited by Joey P; 10-14-2013 at 07:05 AM.
Old 10-14-2013, 07:08 AM
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Search for a shredding event in town
I tried that. Turned out to be a bunch of bad guitar players.
Old 10-14-2013, 07:10 AM
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In the past I've mulched planting beds with a thick layer of scrap paper, then a layer of grass clippings over that. Now I just put the paper on our autumn brush fire in the horse's pasture.
The OP mentioned that many of the papers were in their original envelopes. I would bet that a good number of these envelopes have plastic windows (and may occasionally have plastic inserts inside the envelopes). It would sound like the OP doesn't want to go through all of the envelopes tearing out the windows or looking for non-paper contents.

How well does shredded plastic work for mulching or composting?

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------


Here's an idea: Buy a bag of cement and a barrel. Mix the cement in the barrel, adding paper as you mix. Let dry. Throw away barrel!
Old 10-14-2013, 07:19 AM
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A few shredded plastic envelope windows wouldn't hurt my garden any. And they'd be easy to pick out as you went along.
Unshredded, stuff like that makes a good underlayer to prevent grass encroachment along walkways and similar areas.
Seems weird but it's true, a few layers of overlapping paper stops roots pretty well.
Old 10-14-2013, 11:02 AM
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I once took several boxes of shreddable material (more than I wanted to sit there shredding by hand) to a place that destroys stuff in bulk, mostly for commercial entities. My first clue that they generally dealt with large quantities was that they determined the price by weighing my car on the way in, and again on the way out. I was well under the minimum, so it was a flat fee in the end.

But anyway, we took the banker's boxes out of my trunk and then I watched their contents be destroyed. Quick and very impressive.

I don't recall the price, but it compared favorably to my estimate for the time I'd have needed to do it myself.
Old 10-14-2013, 11:17 AM
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Some offices have "sensitive paper" bins that have slots like letterboxes on the top. If you work in such a place you could bring your documents in and drop them in the bin there. You could of course argue that these bins are intended for office papers so it depends on how comfortable you are with this. If you want to be discreet you would need to do this over several days.
Old 10-14-2013, 12:26 PM
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Originally Posted by snorlax View Post
Some offices have "sensitive paper" bins that have slots like letterboxes on the top. If you work in such a place you could bring your documents in and drop them in the bin there. You could of course argue that these bins are intended for office papers so it depends on how comfortable you are with this. If you want to be discreet you would need to do this over several days.
THIS is what I was thinking! I've worked in finance for 15+ years and when I've needed to, this is what I have used. I just don't make it too obvious.
Old 10-14-2013, 01:14 PM
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Originally Posted by snorlax View Post
Some offices have "sensitive paper" bins that have slots like letterboxes on the top. If you work in such a place you could bring your documents in and drop them in the bin there. You could of course argue that these bins are intended for office papers so it depends on how comfortable you are with this. If you want to be discreet you would need to do this over several days.
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Originally Posted by NVME702-redux View Post
THIS is what I was thinking! I've worked in finance for 15+ years and when I've needed to, this is what I have used. I just don't make it too obvious.
That's what I do. My 'office' is about as informal as it gets. I could probably just take the shredder home with me if I wanted to. In fact, the only reason I take the stuff to work is because when I get the mail, if it's 'sensitive' it's easier to toss it in my car to bring to work, then to bring it down to my basement where my shredder is and then to have to empty that thing once in a while. This makes for bringing in one or two things a week and tossing them in the shredder as I walk by it.
On top of that, I do have a ton of old CC statements from when I used to save that stuff. Every once in a while, I pull them out of storage and bring in a few of them each day to shred. After a week or so they're all gone.


Another thing to keep in mind. To keep the job smaller, you can just get rid of the sensitive parts. For example, if you have 8 year old credit card statements, don't kill yourself trying to get rid of the statement part of it. No one cares about or can do anything with that part. Just tear off the top section with your name/address/account numbers and deal with that section. That's really the only part that needs to be destroyed. It means a lot of time ripping or cutting papers up, but it'll significantly reduce how much paper has to be destroyed.


ETA and while we're at it. The more sensitive things you can switch to 'online statement' or 'online only' the less you'll have to do this going forward. I like seeing my mortgage statement in paper, but that's it. I haven't had a utility bill or credit card statement sent to my house in years.

Last edited by Joey P; 10-14-2013 at 01:16 PM.
Old 10-14-2013, 01:18 PM
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I was hoping some might already have tried it, and be able to offer ideas on how much bleach to use, or if some other chemical might be better. 79 cents per pound is way too expensive; with 6 filing-size boxes, I probably have about 100-200 pounds. I guess I'll have to experiment.
Only problem with soaking in solution is...when it doesn't work, you have a much greater problem, since wet documents can't be shredded, burned or easily dried. Not recommended.
Old 10-14-2013, 01:38 PM
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That's brilliant!

Is there any connection to a nationwide organization that might be doing this in a lot of chapters? If you can steer me in a direction? I would like to pursue it. Like the OP, I have a lot of paper that needs shredding. $.14/lb is fine with me.
No, they don't seem to be affiliated with any national group that I'm aware of. You might try contacting your local Goodwill or equivalent. Maybe they know of someone.
Old 10-14-2013, 01:41 PM
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Originally Posted by Keeve View Post
I was hoping some might already have tried it, and be able to offer ideas on how much bleach to use, or if some other chemical might be better. 79 cents per pound is way too expensive; with 6 filing-size boxes, I probably have about 100-200 pounds. I guess I'll have to experiment.
Well, in that case, you don't want to go the bleach route. Because 200 pounds of dry paper would become probably 400-500 pounds of wet, bleachy pulp. Try scraping that out of your bathtub....
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