Over several months I have accumulated a stack of mail that I need to dispose of. I have a shredder, but it can only run for a few minutes before needing to cool down and it would take hours to shred all this. How can I get rid of this safely (without disclosing personal information to the world) and quickly (not requiring sorting senstitive paperwork from stuff I don't care about the world seeing, or shredding everything). Burning it is an obvious option but I would prefer to send the paper for recycling.
Place the shredder somewhere where you'll pass by it many times during the day. Shred a few papers every time you pass by it. It'll still take a while, but it's not such a daunting prospect when you break up the task.
Bite the bullet and find a place to burn them. It's the only way to be sure. You can plant trees all the way home from the incinerator.
If you live in or near a city, you can probably find a business that offers shredding as one of its services. The ones I've found offer guarantees of privacy for your sensitive documents. The shredding costs are surprisingly low -- less than $2 per pound of paper where I live.
And if you work at an office that has document-shredding bins onsite, like I do, you might be able to slip your old mail into the bins without anyone minding.
I could imagine, wetting and mashing the paper would help.
- Put all the paper in a water resistant container and add a fair amount of liquid (I'd use water, because soft drinks usually leave sticky residues).
- Mash the wet paper with your hands or feet or both (depending on the amount of paper and the size of your container)
- Let it dry and send it to paper recycling
As long as the paper isn't extremely thick, it will be weakened by the water quite fast, thus making you able to mash it. I have not tested this, but from experience of having a wet sheet crushed, you won't be able to read anything off the paper afterwards.
The only down-side I can think of is the drying time. It may take longer to dry a huge block of mashed paper than shredding it with a shredder that needs to cool down. Maybe you could put it in the oven at low temperature to speed this process up. Or maybe the recycling facility also accepts wet paper. Who knows?
If you let it dry completely you may even end up with a more handy block of paper than a pile of sheets.
Rent a business grade shredder
- I used to have a small shredder that gave up every few minutes and it was a real pain
I ended up buying a proper shredder and it was well worth it as I use it for my work but if you only need it for a short period then just rent.
e.g. google "security shredder rental" and you will see results
Building on Alex's answer,
Try pouring some dye/ink over it. Much quicker and easier.
Shred Office Paper gradually (as needed) for Compost Bedding
If you have space to compost, then shredding paper as you go could be helpful rather than a nuisance. (Shredded paper, cardboard, sawdust or leaves are commonly used to create layers within a bucket so it needs less cleaning and does not smell and need to be taken outside as quickly.)
The only source on this that I can think of is the humanure handbook's sawdust toilet. If you follow that process, I think you can rest assured that no one will sift through your personal data.
But you must have a correct portion of nitrogen to offset all the carbon in your paper.