Friday, November 1, 2013

Destroying Sensitive Documents, the Green Way

After 1 month in the worm compost bin, the
few raggled receipts that remain are illegible
If you're like me, you're wary of throwing away or recycling paperwork and receipts that contain sensitive information.  I used to hoard my old documents until I had a large, lopsided stack that had eaten half of my desk.  Then I would have to find a shredder or a place to burn them.  I was actually saving up money to buy myself a paper shredder, before I had a stroke of genius.  Compost!

Traditional composting can be somewhat time consuming and expensive.  If you're an apartment dweller like I am, composting the old fashioned way just isn't possible.  My compost solution has been to convert a couple rubbermaid bins into a worm compost system.

As of this month, my system has been in place for a whole year.  I haven't had any problems with bad smells, bugs, or mess.  The population of worms has exploded, and I've had two harvests of black gold (aka vermicompost).  To learn more about the benefits of vermicompost and how to make a worm compost bin like mine, read my earlier post "Clean, Simple and Inexpensive Composter -- A Rare Combination of Words".

Composting your sensitive documents is a breeze -- especially if you use a worm compost system.  Just lay your papers along the top of the compost bin, beneath a layer of newspaper or cardboard.  You can rip up the papers a little if you want, but if you have an active worm community it's not really necessary.  If your compost is a bit dry, moisten the paper with a spray water bottle.  Close the lid and let the worms work their magic.  In a few short weeks, your worms will have eaten up your paperwork and converted it into rich, nutritious compost.

Whenever I'm doing a gardening workshop, I joke around that compost is the solution to everything.  As time goes by, it becomes less of a joke and more of a reality.

1. Make a worm compost bin.  Click here for instructions.

2. Place receipts and sensitive documents on top of vermicompost.  Moisten with spray water bottle and rip up a bit if you think it's really necessary.

3. Cover with layer of moist newspaper or cardboard.

3. Let the worms work their magic.  1 month later, many of the receipts are gone.  The remains are shredded and illegible.

If you have any questions, comments, ideas or suggestions, please feel welcome to leave a comment on this post or shoot me an email.

What is another "outside the box" use of compost?  

What's your experience with traditional or worm composting?  Do you have any tips or fun stories?


  1. You shouldn't get rid of your important papers by simply disposing them off to the garbage can. Remember that somebody might use them and damaged your reputation. You've given your readers a great tip there, by the way. You were able to discard your documents fail-safe and produce worm compost system at the same time.

    Ruby Badcoe @ Williams Data Management

  2. Thanks Ruby! Your comment adds a lot of credibility to this post.

  3. I agree with Ruby. Simply disposing of it at the garbage bin is no guarantee that it will remain there. Anyone can go through your trash at any time. If someone really wants to harm you, swimming in the leftovers of last night’s dinner is a small price to pay for that one piece of information that will put you down, figuratively speaking. Your method, though not unheard of, is a great alternative to shredding or burning your documents, albeit time consuming. Paper takes a while for it to degrade, but look at it this way; no one really looks for any important information beneath the ground, unless they’re digging for gold.

    Isabella Keeler @

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