Sunday, March 12, 2006

Privacy tip for the Paranoid

Just a quick tip for people who are privacy paranoids and homeowners: compost your shredded paper.

Everyone recommends that you shred anything you want to discard that includes account numbers, SSNs, medical info, financial info, and so on. The Supreme Court ruled in 1988 that the police can legally take your trash without a warrant, and other courts have held that private individuals can also take your trash with impunity. We also know that shredded materials can be painfully pieced together: The Iranians reconstructed documents from the American embassy after the takeover in 1979, and more recently East Germans are reconstructing shredded documents from the Stasi's files.

So my solution is to not throw away my shredding. I compost it. Most of the composting recommendations I've read say it's fine to include paper, though they often recommend against colored inks. Shredded paper added in small amounts to leaves, grass, and whatever else you have makes great compost that is just fine to include in your vegetable garden. Or, if you can't be bothered with a garden, you can put the compost in your curbside green recycling.

What are the chances anyone is actually interested in my throw away paper? In this era of identity theft, it wouldn't surprise me if some entrepreneur is going through everything that reaches the dump looking for useful information. Why tempt them, when the compost pile is so close?

For extra paranoia value, I like to empty the shredder into the compost just below a layer of orange pulp, old fruit peels, or just as the rain is starting to fall.

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1 comment:

RiskyBiznatch said...

While it's not as eco-cool as composting, I use my shreddings to start fires in my fireplace... of course that is only good for the winter months. I guess in the summer I will now compost em.