Pulping as a Recycling Alternative to Shredding

We live in an era of identity theft, and one way people can mess with you is by reading your garbage. I don’t mean the stuff you post online, but the pieces of paper that go into your trash recycling bin. Avoid risks of identity theft by thoroughly destroying your documents with personal information.

If you don’t have a shredder, or don’t like standing over the shredder for half an hour to cut up papers, pulping papers can be a reasonable alternative.  What’s pulping? Pulping is breaking paper down into a mixture of paper fibers and water. Pulp is a material that’s  used to make paper, artwork, sculptures, or other paper-like products.

To pulp papers, you need a bucket.  I used a 3-gallon bucket, but 5-gallon used buckets are cheaper.  Fill it 3/4 full of water, and then add your plain white paper.

Be careful about what kind of paper you pulp. I pulped some carbonless NCR paper, the kind used in checkbooks with duplicate reciepts, auto repair invoices, and other receipts, and got a little sick, probably because pulping released formaldehyde into the water.

The easy way to soak your papers is to put the papers in vertically:  capillary action will pull water upward into the stack. Let the bucket and paper sit for one day, then tear up the paper into smaller pieces. Try to submerge all the paper under the surface of the water.

If there’s too much paper in there, remove some. The paper needs to be able to swell up with water, expanding and loosening its fibers, and then disintegrate into pulp.

Submerge your paper, loosely packed, and wait for three days. Time allows the paper to self-disintegrate to some extent, as random vibrations from the ground and air agitate the water. The papers should be soft after three or four days; reach into the water and agitate it, and break up the paper into smaller bits. They should disintegrate pretty easily, and feel like soft, overcooked food.

Once the bits of paper are small and mixed up, your information is effectively gone.

Using the Pulp

Three ways I’ve come across are:

  • Making paper
  • Paper mache sculptures
  • “Bricks” to burn

I made “briquettes” or “turds” of pulp, dried them out, and intend to use them as starters to ignite charcoal, for outdoor grilling.

See Also

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