How do I dispose of LOTS of private documents?
July 4, 2008 10:43 AM   Subscribe

Is there an easy way to get rid of hundreds of pages of private documents?

I just moved into a smaller apartment than I had before, with a roommate. I'm quite a packrat, and had to get rid of a bunch of stuff, including literally hundreds of pages of files and private documents from apartments past (utility bills, vehicle statements, medical records/bills, etc.) that I don't need, but haven't ever known what to do with -- except for continue to schlep around with me. Well, I'm done with that!

I have a box that weighs, I think, around 50-60 pounds with paper. What do I do to get rid of it? I live in San Fernando Valley, if there's something local beyond general suggestions. The only possible solution I've come up with is allowing a co-worker to take the stuff home and burn at his house way outside of LA, but I'm not entirely comfortable with him having access to so much of my private information.
posted by PandemicSoul to Home & Garden (14 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
This question on a simlar topic had a lot of good answers. The upshots were

- buy a small shredder
- go to a park with a firepit and burn them
- google "shred-a-thon" and see if there is one near you
posted by jessamyn at 10:52 AM on July 4, 2008 [1 favorite]

I saw this tip on Lifehacker and thought it was kind of neat. May take more time and effort than you care to deal with, however, given the amount of paper you have.

"And to save space and money, I have never bought a document shredder. I just stuff incriminating documents in a stocking and toss them in the washing machine."

Maybe you could throw them all in the bathtub, and then just throw out the resulting unreadable glob of wet paper in your normal garbage?
posted by SuperSquirrel at 10:53 AM on July 4, 2008

A lot of areas have community shredding events. Around here (DC area) they are usually sponsored by local TV stations, banks, or town/city government.
posted by candyland at 10:58 AM on July 4, 2008

In my youth, one of the kid's chores was to burn the paper trash. I believe it was some sort of protest against the garbage men or something. Anyways, from that experience I learned that it's kind of a pain to burn a dense pile of paper. You may think paper burns well, but only when it's got a lot of air, and a stack of paper just doesn't have that. The center papers tend to not burn at all, unless you have a serious fire going anyways. You can set a phone book on fire and it will just peter out half the time. You have to poke and prod and manage the fire for way longer than you would think. Also, it's very easy for single sheets of burning paper to blow away in the updraft.

It's really not worth the hassle.
posted by smackfu at 11:06 AM on July 4, 2008 [2 favorites]

Note, sometimes your bank will let you bring it all in and put it through their industrial strength shredders. They did that for my father recently when he moved and had tons of stuff to dispose of.
posted by gudrun at 11:11 AM on July 4, 2008

Here is a list of document shredding services in California.
posted by mkultra at 11:14 AM on July 4, 2008

I couldn't find an upcoming shredding event nearby, but that list of shredding services netted some promising businesses. Thanks!
posted by PandemicSoul at 11:17 AM on July 4, 2008

My aunt and uncle, both psychologists, burn their records after the appointed period has passed - nothing more reliable and secure, and fun on winter nights!
posted by arnicae at 11:21 AM on July 4, 2008

I take all of my shred stuff to my office where we have company sponsored shred bins. Those bins are locked and are picked up by a disposal company who specializes in securely carting away and destroying paper with personal data. Do you have something similar where you work? Or do you have a friend who does - anyone in banking, credit or health care should have those types of services.
posted by 26.2 at 11:22 AM on July 4, 2008

Looking around your area and found a few options.

Shred-it is pleased to offer shredding for home office use within local bylaws and community restrictions. We also offer an occasional "Community Shred" program where a shredding truck parks in a central location and shreds personal documents without charge.

Micro Shred Inc. [...] For those requiring annual, one-time or occasional shredding service, we offer a specially priced purge program."

These services mostly target businesses, offering prices of a few pennies per pound of paper. However, that's generally for large orders.

Some of these companies look like small businesses. You could phone them up, explain what you want and offer to drive to their facility - they might be willing to shove your stuff through their machine cheaply, or for free.
posted by Mike1024 at 11:38 AM on July 4, 2008

I'd like a librarian to confirm this, but since most office-type-places have shredders, maybe a public library near you could, if asked nicely, allow you to borrow a room and a shredder for an hour.
posted by Free word order! at 12:05 PM on July 4, 2008

What I did when faced with this scenario was simply to take my large box of personal documents directly to the municipal recycling center and put it directly in the large recycling hopper. My reasoning was that this immediately mixes it in with several tons of other paper, and minimizes the middleman factor. I figure it is a lot harder for someone to break into the facility and rummage through a giant steel container packed densely to the top with paper than it is to go through regular street-side garbage. This container was so large in fact that once you tossed the paper in there was no way to reach it without getting a ladder and climbing in yourself, which the staff there would probably notice. Of course this doesn't really apply if the container was already full enough to reach the top, but just make sure it's nearly empty when you toss.
posted by Rhomboid at 3:40 PM on July 4, 2008 [1 favorite]

I just bought a Fellowes shredder, model MS7Cs, at Costco for around $110 last week. It does exactly what you want.

It takes 5 sheets at a time, with staples, cuts the paper up into confetti, and shreds credit cards and CDs too.

Strangely, I can't find it on either Costco or Fellowes' websites, but it's black, a little shorter than a kitchen wastebasket, and holds plenty of shredded paper.
posted by zippy at 3:49 AM on July 5, 2008

My dad burned hundreds of pages of his parents' papers last winter. He, too, lives in the Valley so there are about 5 days of the year when this is actually a pleasant venture...but we enjoyed the warmth.
posted by crinklebat at 11:02 PM on July 6, 2008

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