What do you do with all those Bank Statements, Credit Card Bills and Utility Demands?

First off you either pay them or file them. Well, that’s what I do, maybe you do things differently.

Then when you’ve done that, and a few years have elapsed, and you FINALLY get round to having a bit of a sort out you shred or burn them. We have a fire but it’s May and I’m not lighting a fire just to burn a load of old paperwork, as lovely as the thought is of watching all that dry dull paper go up in smoke. So shredding it is.

I get a deep sense of satisfaction from shredding, putting the paper in the top, pressing the button and watching it get chomped. All those mechanical gnashers gnwaing away at the paper. Aaaahhhh, it has a kind of therapeutic pull, watching the tedium of paperwork ending up as paper streams. So what do you do with the shredded paper? Well our council won’t collect it – something about it being difficult to re-cycle. So it’s a case of re-use.

I re-use the piles of shredded paper we generate on the allotment. You knew that was coming didn’t you! I use it in the compost bins as my dry material – mixed in with the greens of food peelings, tea bags, coffee grounds and vegetable matter, it helps make lovely crumbly compost.

But I also use it as a mulch. It might not be the most attractive thing you can do in your kitchen garden but trust me, it works. It’s great for the plants and soil. When I first tried putting it on the ground I expected it to be picked up and flung around the place at the first mini gust of wind. To my surprise and pleasure it simply stays where you place it. See it’s well behaved as well as useful. Just don’t try laying it down on a windy day othersiwe you will be unintenionally decroating your garden with strips of white paper.

The biggest job that mulching does is to preserve water – it stops water evaporating, it helps to keep water in the soil around the roots of plants – where it’s needed most. And in a year that we gardeners have to garden in a “declared drought” we need to do everything we can to help keep the water where it’s meant to be – i.e. around the plants and not in the atmosphere.

It quickly breaks down – maybe 6 months maximum, so is soon gone as worms and nature dig into it. And if you want to you can always layer some grass clippings on top of the shredded paper, again it will keep the moisture in and will break down. Making even more lovely crumbly compost-soil without actually putting anything in the compost bin.

Magic !

So next time a bill or a statement drops on the mat, remember there is, at some stage, the pleasure that comes from shredding and then putting it to good use with composting and mulching.

I think it’s time to start having a wander around the plot and checking up on how the loo-roll peas are getting on and what else is going on at the allotment.


  • What a brilliant idea. Strange that the council won´t deal with it though – presume they will take away unshredded paper etc?

    • Hi Tanya, yes th ecouncil take standard paper products but say that shredded paper is difficult to re-cycle. Just as well I have an allotment 🙂

      • Our recycling company has the same policy–I guess it gums up the equipment. But….they will take shredded paper in the yard waste. Which makes sense based on your posting (which I loved, by the way). Maybe you should ask your recycling company if they will take shredded paper in with yard waste–since probably everyone is not as ingenious as you are.

  • Love the idea! Lord knows, we generate enough paper bills and junk mail around here…Wish I’d thought of this when I was building the mushroom bed!

    • Thanks Marie, it’s also good for bean beds and trenching too, I tend to dig a trench for the beans and add lots of paper, give it a soak and cover it with soil, I think it keeps it nice and rich and moist, perfect for beans 🙂

  • This is such a great idea — and so sensible, too. Well, that’s 2 reasons why it’s escaped me for so long. Thanks, Claire. My containers will be sporting a new look this season.

    • Hi John, I now have a picture of gardens around the world “decorated” with shredded paper – a great image 🙂 Hope you have a super weekend!

  • Good for you, Claire. We burn our sensitive papers except on Spare the Air Days. We can do this except in the hottest weather. We always add wood to the fire, generally trimmings from our upteen bay trees in the backyard. Yours is the second good re-use story I have read this morning.

    • Thanks Sharyn, it seems such a simple a simple and practical way to deal with sensitive paperwork. It’s May and we’ve had to light a fire it’s so cold today!!

  • Very nice…..I also let my worms snack on the shredded papers as I use it for bedding in their bins. Anything to keep it secure and also out of the landfills.

    • Hi there, yes the worms do all the work as opposed to me digging! I must investigate a worm bin, and how to fit it into the garden, the problem is that our garden is teeny.

  • I have heard of a great idea to deal with shredded paper. When you are making your runner bean trench put in a length of guttering and fill it with shredded paper, put a tube at each end to put the water and refill the trench. We have a hosepipe ban now and I thought this was a great idea. You can pour the water down the tube from a watering can and this acts like a sump so your beans wont dry out.

    • A great idea!! In fact rather ingenius. I tend to do a bit of a trench for the beans – lots of houshold waste, paper and a few other bits, a good soaking and then cover with soil and manure. Nice and rich. But a piece of hosepipe and some guttering would really get the water direct to the roots.

  • fantastic, i was hoping that was where you were going, i throw all mine in the hen house and they shred it up a bit more and mix it up with the straw and .. um.. stuff and then into the compost pile it goes! what an excellent idea claire, I never thought of putting it straight on as mulch.. c

    • A pleasure. I have a wonderful vision of gardens covered in paper streamers, first stop Hastings next the world! Mind you I’m envious of all that lovely straw with it’s added ingredients that you get to use for your compost bins – all that richness going back into the ground,. Lucky plants I say. C

  • Good idea. We’re putting newspaper through the shredder now for Guinea Pig bedding (half commercial for the odor control), which we then goes onto the non-veggie part of the garden.

    I wanted to let you know that I just awarded you the versatile blogger award. I know some of my awardees have gotten this before, but I do have my favorites and really wanted to honor you. For the announcement, see: http://artofnaturalliving.com/2012/05/05/kitchen-sink-cookies/

    • Hi Inger, thank you for thinking of me, that’s so kind!
      Lucky guinea pigs I say, I used to have a guinea pig as a kid, lovely animals, that little squeak they make is so cute, they are such animated creatures, ours used to go on walkabouts around the garden, an dif he got lucky around neighbours gardens – he was rather fond of foraging for strawberries and loved sitting in a patch of lavender, so when you picked him up to pop him in his cage for the night he used to smell beautiful 🙂

  • great idea. I save mine for my neighbour who adds them to the bedding for her lambs in the Spring. makes me feel special to know my shredding is serving such a lovely purpose.

    • What a great use for the shredded paper, and as you say going to such a special use is a bonus! I’ve really enjoyed reading everyones responses on how they use shredded paper – lots of great ideas that have been shared

  • Most of my papers end up in the woodburner, but then of course the ashes are added to the compost, so it all ends up where it should; in the garden!

  • You have just blown me away. I would never, and I do mean never, have thought of using shredded paper for anything in the garden, but you have changed that.

    • Hi Lulu, and thank you, I guess it is a matter of us all looking around at what we produce, what is surplous and ho wwe go about re-using it. Hope you have a great week 🙂

  • We’re not allowed to burn here.. so this is a great idea. We also have those windy days quite often too.. but the idea of swirling paper makes me happy oddly… 🙂 xo Smidge

  • We cannot burn or compost here in HK. However, I found that shredded paper works great as bedding for our little hamsters.

    • It sounds like perfect re-use to me! When we were in the Alps we didn’t have a compost bin – but I’m guessing here, it’s too cold for too many months of the year, I know we missed not being able to compost.

  • That is such a good idea! We have too much shredded paper to even speak off, even if using both sides!

    Choc Chip Uru

    • Hi there choc chip, I know what you mean about using both sides! I guess one of the pluses is to not have printed bills (all online), but then you need bigger servers and more electronic componenets and stuff! No easy answer is there ?!

    • Hi Robert, yes the irony o rsymbolism hadn’t escaped me either! I don’t knnow quite how to express it though. And thanks for the compliment about the photos 🙂

  • I love your idea of recycling shredded statements. I also know that many people use newspapers as mulch and as a way to stop weeds. I have one thought as I try to have my garden be as organic as possible. Do we have any idea about the different inks that are prevalent on the paper and what happens over time with the inks in the garden?

    • That’s a great question Karen. And the simple answer is I don’t know for certain – without writing to the various banks or companies, maybe I should check their websites out to see what they say. I know that in the UK (and I think the US too) that the newspaper industry moved from mostly using carbon to soy based inks, Certainly the harmful leads originally used are no longer in play.
      The one thing that I think of with organic is that everyone seems to have their own slightly different version, I know for instance that the coffee we buy isn’t always organic, nor the tea nor some of our fruit and veggies but the peelings etc all go in the compost. And then there are the pollutants o rchemicals in the water or in the air. It’s trying to find a balance with what you the individual is comfortable with.
      I guess with inks it’s a little different, I think the biggest risks are in the manufacturing process and not in the breaking down process. But I only think that, I don’t know !! Glossy paper or coated paper has different chemicals in it.
      I woner if anyone reading this has any good ideas or information?

  • I love this idea, but would also ask the same question as Karen since I also try to stay as organic as possible, and unfortunately most ink still used out there for general communication and billing purposes isn’t the soy-based kind. I sure would love to compost my shredded paper if the ink has no adverse impact.

    • That’s interesting what you say about not much being soy based.
      I don’t have any answers, but these are such great questions! I think we need a handy scientist/environmentalist to help us here….

  • I wondered about putting shredded paper on the garden but dismissed the idea because of the bits of paper that would go flying around the garden and into the pool. It’s worth trying by the sound of it. I currently rip newspaper for my compost and reuse then recycle other paper.

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