What Happens to Your Shredded Documents?

Download Preview
Stacked bales of shredded waste paper for recyclingImagine that one day you open up a ream of paper and you find a golden ticket that entitles you to tour a paper recycling plant—only your name isn’t Charlie, there’s no chocolate involved, and you won’t be inheriting the recycling plant at the end—even if you’ve been good. Lucky you!

If, after all that disappointing news, you’re still interested in what happens to your shredded documents, grab that golden ticket and follow me!


Your ticket allows you to ride shotgun in the truck that delivers the shredded paper to the recycling plant, so you can see first hand what happens to the documents you dropped into the secure shred collection container in your office.

Past the Forests and Landfills

You gaze out the window of the truck at the forest of tall trees with the sun poking through the tops and count off sections of 17 trees that will continue to live because each ton of shredded paper in the back of the truck will save that many trees. The driver turns to you to explain that those trees improve soil and water conservation, store carbon, moderate local climate, increase wildlife habitat and improve the land’s capacity to adapt to climate change. What? All of that? Let them grow! And as they continue to grow, your truck ride takes you past the landfill site. The driver says, “Not stopping there.” You don’t mind avoiding that place one bit. On you go.

Arrival and Departure

At the recycling plant, the truck unloads the paper that is separated by type and grade. It is compressed into bails and loaded back into another truck headed for the paper mills to be processed. Your driver hands you over to another driver and truck. Once again, you call shotgun and you’re off to your next destination.

Welcome to the Paper Mill

  • Pulping: After the bails are unloaded, the paper is put inside a pulper which is a big vat where it is chopped into pieces and water is added. The mixture is heated to break down the paper into fibers.
  • Screening: The resulting pulp then goes through a screening process to remove foreign objects like staples, paper clips, rubber bands and tape; all the things that you were allowed to leave attached to your discarded documents. The pulp is cleaned and larger pulp fibers are separated into smaller fibers and any remaining non-paper bulk materials are removed.
  • Washing: The pulp is then rinsed with water to remove ink.
  • Flotation: Air bubbles and a detergent are used to remove larger particles and sticky materials. The removed residue is also used for a variety of things like burning to create energy, composting or added to concrete for road construction. You are amazed at how good this is for the earth.
  • Refining: During this process, the pulp is compressed to gradually de-laminate the fiber cell wall, increasing flexibility and fibrillation of the fiber surfaces. Color-stripping chemicals are added to remove dyes and bleach is used to brighten paper that will be white.
  • Finale: The watery pulp is sprayed onto moving screens, where the water drains and recycled fibers bond together in sheets. Press rollers squeeze more water out. Heated metal rollers dry the paper sheets. The paper sheet is wound into giant rolls that are eventually shipped to manufacturing plants to be used for new paper products. That was amazing!

Departing Gift

At the end of your tour, you are handed a cardboard box made of recycled paper. Inside are paper towels, tissues and writing paper, all of which were produced from recycled paper. You didn’t inherit a company, but you helped protect the environment and that’s a win for everyone.

Upon your return to the office, you check with the boss to make sure that the shredding company you use makes recycling a priority. You are told it’s Richards & Richards in Nashville, a company that values the environment by recycling your shredded material.

Richards & Richards serves Nashville’s information destruction needs while protecting the environment. Call us at 615-242-9600 or complete the form on this page for more information.

Subscribe to Blog via Email

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Request an Immediate Shredding Quote

Newsletter Signup

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.