Recycling's Dirty Dozen: It Used To Be OK To Put Shredded Paper in The Bin — BUT IT ISN'T ANYMORE!

Recycling’s Dirty Dozen: It Used To Be OK To Put Shredded Paper in The Bin — BUT IT ISN’T ANYMORE!

  • Editor’s Note: This article is written by Kane County Recycling Coordinator Jennifer Jarland, who is also a member of the Illinois Task Force for Recycling Contamination Solutions. The article is part of a year-long a series on the “Dirty Dozen” of recycling — the 12 items that should NOT go in your recycling cart. Got local questions or concerns? Contact Jarland at 630-208-3841 or

Because the income tax filing deadline has been extended to July 15 this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, a lot of folks might be going through documents and shredding paper.

The Illinois Task Force for Recycling Contamination Solutions wants to remind you that, while shredded paper used to be allowed in recycling carts, IT ISN’T ANY MORE!

Shredded paper is too small to sort — the pieces fall through the cracks of the sorting machines, stick to the belts and end up all over the floor and in every other material stream as a contaminate.

Even when it was contained in paper bags, it often got loose. And in case you haven’t heard, plastic bags (full or empty) are a big NO NO in the recycling bin!

So what can you do with it? Here are four suggestions:

Shred Judiciously

First, please avoid shredding when possible because it damages the potential for recycling. If you want to shred your own confidential material, the best practice is to tear off the portion of the page that contains the confidential information and shred that.

Then recycle the rest of the sheet — whole — in your curbside recycling program.

Also please do not shred non-confidential material. Junk mail, magazines, greeting cards, folders and other mail are not usually considered confidential. Recycle them whole in your curbside bin.

Confidential materials that you should shred include bank statements, tax or medical records, pre-approved credit card applications, and anything with your social security number on it.

Take Shredded Paper To an Event or Drop-off Location

There are many local options for properly getting rid of shredded paper, for example:

Bring Shredded Paper to Any Kane County Recycling Event

If you have already shredded your documents, you can take bags of shredded paper to Kane County Recycling Events scheduled throughout the year.

Please place shredded paper in paper bags (with top rolled and stapled once or twice) and drop them off at ​the Book Recycling area. Large kraft-paper yard waste bags work just fine too if you have a lot of shredded paper.

We will put them in with the books that are beyond use and headed for recycling. The paper will get recycled.

Take Shredded Paper to the Aurora WestRock Paper Recycling Facility

The Aurora WestRock recycling facility is usually open from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesdays​, though they are presently closed due to the COVID-19 emergency. Watch the WestRock website for updates on when the facility will reopen.

The paper will get recycled.​

Shredding Events Suspended Until Further Notice

Kane County will not be conducting Document Shredding events until further notice due to logistical restraints.

On average, 800 cars (more than three cars per minute) attend these events, bringing more than 30,000 pounds (15 tons) of paper. So we cannot safely provide this service at this time.

However, we are still able to safely offer electronics, textile and book recycling under the required COVID-19 safety protocol. Please see the events page for information on the materials we will be accepting at our event on June 13.

For shredding events, you might try calling your local bank. Sometimes those institutions offer free yearly shredding event for their customers

Also, local post offices often offer shredding service for a fee per pound.

Trash It

If none of the above solutions work for you, then you may throw your shredded paper in the trash, but PLEASE place it in a plastic bag tied tightly closed so it does not blow all over and create a litter issue.

Read The ‘Dirty Dozen’ Series!