Frederick Lancaster first coined the term “paperless society” in the nineteen-seventies to refer to a digital age, when all information would be generated and stored in an electronic format. However, progress toward this “paperless society” is slow. Large amounts of paper are used in business, government, banks and health organizations to accomplish their work, and by families and individuals to record and manage the minutia of daily living. It’s essential for the public/private sector to have access to shredding paper services that can destroy confidential documents securely. At home, individuals must be able to safely dispose of items, such as credit card receipts, bank statements, invoices, income tax returns and other documents that include their name and address and other personal information to lessen the threat of identity theft or fraud.
Both government and the business world need document retention policies with procedures for the secure in-house handling of private, confidential or sensitive paper documents and guidelines to ensure safe destruction at the end of their lifecycle. These policies must be simple to enforce, backed-up with appropriate employee education and training and compliant with privacy legislation.
In Ireland, the international company All Star Shredding recommends that all documents are shredded, regardless of content. This procedure eliminates the need for employees of a company to differentiate between documents, which may or may not be confidential. Total shredding also lessens the risk of data/information breaches, which are expensive, difficult to handle and capable of lowering the reputation and sales of a business.
Shredding companies provide their clients with locked containers, known as consoles. To maintain security, employees cannot retrieve papers from the consoles, which are emptied regularly by a shredding service, such as All Star, whose specially trained employees have undergone several security checks. Small business or residential clients can usually drop off their paper documents and files at a conveniently-located shredding company or the shredding company might have a mobile shredder, which can visit the client.
The secret to secure shredding lies in the choice of the shredding machine. Conventional shredders shred the paper into long, thin, vertical strips, which can vary from an eighth to half an inch in width. It’s possible for determined individuals to reassemble the thicker strips into pages and thus retrieve information. So, the use of thinner strips provides a higher level of security. Cross-cut shredders slice paper horizontally as well as vertically to produce small pieces of paper similar in size to confetti. These confetti-like pieces are almost impossible to reformat into a document.
The final step which can strengthen security levels is to recycle in some way the end product of the shredding process. New paper can be produced from shredded paper, depending upon the type of machinery in use at a paper mill. However, the fibres in the shreds are short, which produces a weaker form of paper.
Individuals can dispose of shredded paper in a variety of ways. Some municipalities allow residents to dispose of shredded paper in their compost bin. Shreds disposed of beneath tea bags, coffee grinds, vegetable peelings, egg shells and wet leaves from the garden are probably secure, but shreds exposed to the elements on a windy day or placed in clear plastic bags are a temptation to unscrupulous individuals.
Leslie writes for Qeedle on all small business issues.